Where to find gambling spots in the Lone Star State
Whether you’re exploring lush blackland prairies, vast desert valleys or the bustling streets of downtown Houston, there’s perhaps no more fitting a place for a hand of Texas Hold’em poker than the Lone Star State. But armed with strict gambling policies, Texas is home to only a handful of casinos, most of which operate under stringent restrictions. Satisfy your gambling itch by visiting other acceptable sites for wagering, from racetracks where thoroughbreds gallop for glory, to floating casinos bobbing in international waters.
Q: Are casinos allowed in Texas?
A: As of 2017, Texas law prohibits the type of gambling found in most casinos, including slot machines, card games and table games. However, Texas’ three federally recognized Indian tribes – the Kickapoo, Alabama-Coushatta and Tigua tribes – own and operate casinos throughout the state. Federally recognized tribes are, to a certain extent, able to govern themselves as sovereign nations. While receiving federal recognition in 1983, the Kickapoo tribe never agreed to ban gaming on their sovereign land and, in 1996, they legally built a casino on their reservation. In order to gain federal recognition, in 1987, the Alabama-Coushatta and Tigua tribes agreed to prohibit gambling on their lands but have since built casinos, albeit with limited forms of gambling, citing their rights as sovereign nations. For their actions, as of 2017, the Alabama-Coushatta and Tigua tribes continue to face litigation and casino closure threats by the state of Texas.
Q: Where can you find Indian casinos in Texas?
A: The Kickapoo tribe’s Lucky Eagle Casino is in Eagle Pass, about 2.5 hours southwest of San Antonio. The only Texas casino with an attached hotel, Lucky Eagle is also home to a bingo hall, poker room and more than 3,300 video games and slot machines. Sign up for the Players Club either online or in person to earn points towards casino credits or merchandise.
The disputed Indian casinos are Naskila Gaming, located about 90 minutes northeast of Houston, and Speaking Rock Entertainment Center in El Paso, owned and operated by the Alabama-Coushatta and Tigua tribes, respectively. Inside both casinos you’ll find devices that look and sound like traditional slot machines but, in actuality, are electronic bingo games in which you play a card on each spin and compete against other players. Naskila Gaming is an alcohol-free zone with a nearby lakeside campground should you wish to spend the night. Speaking Rock draws big crowds for its mostly free, year-round concerts, so make sure you arrive early if you want a good viewing spot. All of Texas’ Indian casinos are open 24/7 and restricted to patrons age 21 and older.
Q: Are there horse racing tracks in Texas?
Year-round wagering and meets featuring thoroughbred and quarter horse racing are available at Texas’ three major racetracks: Sam Houston Race Park in Houston; Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie 15 minutes west of Dallas; and Retama Park in Selma, a 30-minute drive southwest of San Antonio. While you can’t place a bet online, Sam Houston and Lone Star Parks allow you to buy admission tickets and reserve seats on their website. All three tracks offer simulcast racing, which means even on days when there’s no live racing, you can still go to the track to bet on races from around the country. Admission is free or significantly reduced on simulcast-only days, but you may be restricted to certain areas of the park, such as a sports book-like bar or a specific concourse. You must be 21 years of age to place a wager at any time.
Q: Are there any casino cruises in Texas?
A: As of 2017, Jacks or Better Casino, which sails out of Galveston, is Texas’ only operating casino cruise. Public cruises, which last about six hours, depart Friday through Sunday year-round, with the rest of the week reserved for private parties. Sailing aboard a 155-foot yacht, the ship travels at least 9.1 miles offshore into the international waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where guests are then allowed to gamble on sporting events, gaming tables and slot machines. The ship offers an on-site ATM and motion sickness pills, and patches are available for purchase but they should be consumed at least an hour before sailing. You must be 18 years of age to board the ship but 21 or older to consume an alcoholic beverage.