Texas regularly touts its booming economy and business-friendly climate, but one business still faces long odds in the Lone Star State---casinos. When it comes to gambling laws, Texas remains on the strict side. State law allows lotteries, horse and dog tracks, bingo games and the like. But standard casino-style gambling remains illegal (save for a few Native American lands) and sports betting is also off-limits (although a pending U.S. Supreme Court decision could change the outlook on that).
Texas laws on gambling go back decades, and most current lawmakers have shown no appetite for changing them. Gov. Greg Abbott said in 2015 he "wholeheartedly" supports current gambling laws, and efforts to loosen the laws or legalize more forms of gambling in the state have repeatedly failed in the Legislature. But with the growing casino business in neighboring states, many Texas entrepreneurs think it's time to change outdated views on gambling. "People say well if you change the law there's going to be violence and drugs and bad people...but you know what? That's already here," says Rocky Herrin, General Manager of Jacks or Better Casino, which operates on a cruise ship off of Galveston due to Texas gambling laws. "Let's get that revenue for Texas now instead of having it go to Louisiana or Oklahoma...if you go to the parking lots at any of the casinos over there, most of the license plates say Texas on 'em."
In Houston, several new poker rooms have opened up in recent years. These establishments charge "rental" or "membership" fees to customers, since state law prohibits taking any cut of wagers or gambling profits. Derrick Cavaco, host of Poker Lab Radio on Sportstalk 790, believes this is another example of gambling taking place despite efforts to restrict it. "I know personally of over 300 poker games a night that go on in the greater Houston area, and that's been going on for decades," he tells KTRH. "We're pushing that behemoth revenue over to Choctaw, Oklahoma or Lake Charles, Louisiana, where they're benefiting from money that should be going back to our community."
Listen to Poker Lab Radio Saturdays at 11 pm on Sportstalk 790 starting April 7