If you were born after, say, 1960, you probably can’t imagine the state of Texas as taking anything but a puritanical stance on gambling. Until the second half of the 20th century, several cities in Texas happily fostered the vice troika of prostitution, alcohol and gambling; the state in general became knowon worldwide for a party atmosphere in the right places.
Today, only one proper land-based casino exists in Texas, with a casino cruise ship with regular departures from Port Aransas on the Gulf of Mexico A Native American-run gaming house hosting about 300 electronic bingo machines may or may not be closed by the time you read this. Finally, three horse racing tacks are in operation as of this writing as well.
Population: 27.0 million (2017 est.)
Area: 268,597 sq. mi.
Gambling Age (Casinos): 21
Gambling Age (Lottery): 18
Number of Casinos: 1-3, depending on your definition of “casino”
• Official estimates show that almost 31% of Texas adults are obese.
• If Texas were a country, its GDP would be among the world’s 15 largest.
• As of 2014, nearly 29,000 machine guns were registered by Texas citizens.
• In 2016, the percentage of undocumented workers in the Texas workforce was estimated to be as high as 9%.
Free-associate with the phrase “Wild West” and before long you’ll arrive at “Texas” – and with good reason. Some of the most notorious gunslingers, showmen and gamblers passed through the Texas territory, known for its general sense of free-spirited lawlessness. By the 1870s, Doc Holliday and Lottie Deno were taking suckers who made a wad of money buffalo hunting on the plains, but this apex last the last hurrah for anarchy in Texas, as incorporated townships got to passing laws against gambling and other forms of vice in the 1880s and into the 1900s.
But while many areas of the country saw closure of gambling halls, many bigger towns such as Houston formed a peaceful coexistence with purveyors of vice; San Antonio, Galveston and others even enjoyed “vice districts” which continued doing business into the 1920s. Even these holdouts couldn’t last forever, however, and by 1941, raids shut down the entirety of San Antonio’s “Sporting District.” The Naskila Gaming Center of 300 electronic bingo machines opened in February 2016, and within six months the Center’s operators were in court.
The Lucky Eagle Casino is located in Eagle Pass, the border town of Piedras Negras, Mexico. The Naskila Gaming Center – assuming it’s still open – is in Livingston, about 60 miles north of Houston.
An interesting option for those who can get there is the Aransas Queen Casino Ship, which parts twice daily from Port Aransas, about 180 miles southeast of San Antonio, 180 miles east of Laredo and 40 miles east of Corpus Christi. The Aransas Queen opened for business in 2015, filling the void left by the Texas Treasure Casino Cruise, which went defunct in ‘08.
Otherwise, gamblers close to the borders of Oklahoma or New Mexico can hop across state lines to the WinStar in Thackerville or the Zia Park Casino, Hotel and Racetrack in Hobbs, respectively.
Pretty straightforward here: At the Lucky Eagle and Naskila Gaming Center, one must be 21 years or older to enter. Those 18 or older may play in the state lottery or on horse racing events.
Have you ever seen Doyle Brunson? If you have, you’ve got no problem with our choice of him as the most famous Texas gambler ever. After all, Brunson is one of the very few to have achievd mammoth success in two eras of poker: Doyle first started raking it in while the only games in Texas to be had were illegal ones. In two autobiographical works, Brunson writes of police raids of illegal high-stakes poker games being so frequent that Doyle and the other players were one first-name bases with the cops.
When the World Series of Poker was first held as a single-table event in 19XXXXX, Brunson was at the table. And when the poker craze hit American airwwaves in the late 1990s/early 2000s, Brunson was winning a total of 10 bracelets at WSOP tournaments alone.
So yeah, we’re putting Doyle at no. 1, with Doc Holliday at no. 2. Honorable mention goes out to Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, former star on Super Bowl-winning Dallas Cowboys teams of the 1970s. After retiring, Henderson slowly jacked away the earnings thanks to a cocaine habit and spent 28 months in prison. From rags to riches to rags to riches “Hollywood” would go, though: In 2000, he won the Texas State Lottery for a $16 million prize – certainly making him the most famous lottery winner of all-time.
Well, if you haven’t surmised as much already, let’s just say it’s pretty much illegal to bet in any fashion excepting the Lottery and pari-mutuel wagering. Got on the Aransas cruise or check out one of the two (or one) Native American-run gaming houses to play anything electronic or table gaming.
We certainly hope gambling fans weren’t expecting good news here, because any expansion to gambling law in Texas is utterly unlikely.
Going into 2017, court battles continued over the fate of the Naskila Gaming Center. The appeals made by the defense are fairly well obvious: Those living on reservation land are in need of better infrastructure, jobs have been created, tax money is going to the state, and the tribe hopes to become more self-sufficient. However, in ’16, legislators in favor of keeping historical racing machines at the state’s tracks argued that Texas’s *entire horse racing industry* was at stake – and they lost. What chance does a small band of systematically marginalized Native Americans have to get local courts’ sympathy?
So yeah, if anything, the smart money would be on closure of all three horse tracks and the Naskila Gaming Center by 2020.