For many, the thought that gambling is a crime seems absurd. The State of Texas allows legalized gambling through the Texas Lottery or if you’re betting on horses pursuant to the Texas Racing Act (i.e., so long as they get to operate as the “house,” the State of Texas seems to be okay with it). However, under the Texas Penal Code, gambling is still a crime. Fortunately, it’s only considered a Class C misdemeanor, for which the penalty range includes a fine of up to $500, but does not include jail time. By the way, if you’re wondering whether or not you’re breaking the law when you get together with some buddies for a friendly game of poker, you don’t need to be concerned. The gambling statute provides a defense to prosecution, so long as chances of winning and losing are the same for everyone, nobody receives an economic benefit other than “personal winnngs” (i.e., there’s no “house” involved in the game), and the game occurs in a private place. Texas Penal Code Section 47.02.
(a) A person commits an offense if he: (1) makes a bet on the partial or final result of a game or contest or on the performance of a participant in a game or contest; (2) makes a bet on the result of any political nomination, appointment, or election or on the degree of success of any nominee, appointee, or candidate; or (3) plays and bets for money or other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice, balls, or any other gambling device.
(b) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that: (1) the actor engaged in gambling in a private place; (2) no person received any economic benefit other than personal winnings; and (3) except for the advantage of skill or luck, the risks of losing and the chances of winning were the same for all participants.
(c) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the actor reasonably believed that the conduct: (1) was permitted under Chapter 2001, Occupations Code; (2) was permitted under Chapter 2002, Occupations Code; (3) consisted entirely of participation in the state lottery authorized by the State Lottery Act (Chapter 466, Government Code); (4) was permitted under the Texas Racing Act (Article 179e, Vernon’s Texas Civil Statutes); or (5) consisted entirely of participation in a drawing for the opportunity to participate in a hunting, fishing, or other recreational event conducted by the Parks and Wildlife Department.
(d) An Offense Under This Section is a Class C Misdemeanor.
(e) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that a person played for something of value other than money using an electronic, electromechanical, or mechanical contrivance excluded from the definition of “gambling device” under Section 47.01(4)(B). Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Amended by Acts 1981, 67th Leg., 1st C.S., p. 101, ch. 11, Sec. 43, eff. Nov. 10, 1981; Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 957, Sec. 2, eff. Jan. 1, 1990; Acts 1991, 72nd Leg., 1st C.S., ch. 6, Sec. 3; Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 107, Sec. 4.04, eff. Aug. 30, 1993; Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 774, Sec. 2, eff. Aug. 30, 1993. Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, Sec. 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994; Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 76, Sec. 14.53, eff. Sept. 1, 1995; Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 318, Sec. 20, eff. Sept. 1, 1995; Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 931, Sec. 79, eff. June 16, 1995; Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1256, Sec. 124, eff. Sept. 1, 1997; Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1420, Sec. 14.834, eff. Sept. 1, 2001.
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