Texas prohibits all casino gambling mainly due to longstanding conservative views that banned it in the state constitution back in 1903. While neighboring states have thriving gaming industries, the odds remain stacked against casinos in places like Fort Worth where religious opposition stays strong.
Texas Stays True to Its Anti-Gambling Stance
Gambling at casino table games like blackjack and roulette is strictly illegal in Texas. No slot machines or poker rooms exist at commercial casinos, making Texas a major outlier nationally. Besides three small tribal facilities, you won‘t find a true Vegas-style casino anywhere in the state.
This casino prohibition stems directly from Texas‘ state constitution that outright banned all gambling in 1903. Changing the state constitution requires a two-thirds legislative majority along with a public referendum – a difficult political challenge that casino supporters haven‘t overcome.
"The Legislature shall pass laws prohibiting lotteries and gift enterprises in this State other than those authorized by Subsections (b), (d), and (e) of this section," states the Texas Constitution‘s Article 3, Section 47.
The Key Influences Behind the Longstanding Ban
What led to Texas‘ unusually strict anti-gambling policies? Several key factors pushed casino gambling onto the banned list from the early 20th century onward:
- Conservative religious views – Influential Southern Baptist and other evangelical groups have opposed gambling expansion as bringing immorality and vice. These conservative perspectives still carry weight today.
- Social impacts – Opponents argue gambling addictions and other societal issues aren‘t worth the cost. Moral objections remain over "profiting from others‘ losses."
- Tax revenue fears – Some worry that gaming income would undermine state lottery proceeds, now dedicated to education funding.
- Constitutional hurdles – Amending the Texas Constitution is an intentionally difficult process requiring 2/3rds approval in both legislative chambers along with a public referendum. Casino backers have yet to succeed.
Modern Attempts Have Fallen Short So Far
In recent decades, there have been attempts by lawmakers and lobbyists to allow casinos by amending the constitution. For example, in 1987 a public referendum to approve casinos failed heavily with over 80% voting against it.
Recent legislative pushes in 2021 and 2022 by a group called the Texas Sports Betting Alliance also faltered, though supporters vow to keep trying. Polls show public views shifting gradually more favorable toward casinos, but still likely short of the support needed to lift the ban.
Tribal Casinos Operate Under Federal Rules
While commercial casinos can‘t operate, three Native American tribal casinos legally offer certain gaming under federal Indian gaming law:
- Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino – Eagle Pass, 3,300+ gaming machines
- Naskila Gaming – Livingston, 365+ gaming machines
- Speaking Rock – El Paso, 850+ gaming machines
These reflect the unique rules for federally recognized tribes, affirmed by courts, rather than any relaxation of state policy against broader casino gambling.
Casino Prospects Remain Slim in the Fort Worth Area
In conservative strongholds like Fort Worth and Tarrant County, proposals to allow casinos face strong ideological opposition. Some business leaders float ideas like a resort casino in the Stockyards district to boost tourism, arguing the economic benefits.
But there‘s no evidence yet of shifting attitudes among key decision-makers and voters in the region to open the door to legalized casinos over the next 5-10 years. Powerful lobbying groups also aim to keep the ban in place. Religious groups and social conservatives continue holding sway.
"There‘s still very little chance of expansion in Tarrant," said County Judge Glen Whitley. "The gambling lobby may keep trying, but I don‘t see the needed support coming anytime soon."
Perspectives on the Debate From Both Sides
Potential benefits cited by supporters:
- Tax revenue could help ease budget shortfalls from other sources
- Casinos create jobs – from construction to dealers to restaurant staff
- Tourism and related businesses may grow around casino resorts
- Legalization allows regulation of an activity currently happening illicitly
Concerns raised by opponents:
- Gambling addictions and social ills often rise with casinos
- They claim casinos won‘t actually bring "new" money to Texas
- It would open the door to further expansion of morally questionable activities
- Casinos could undermine lottery revenues now dedicated to schools
How Texas Stacks Up to Nearby Casino States
Texas stands in stark contrast next to neighbors like Oklahoma and Louisiana where casino gambling is huge industry. Oklahoma now boasts over 100 casinos after laws passed in 2004 allowed gambling at racetracks and on Native American lands. These casinos generated an estimated $150 million in payments to the state in 2021 from exclusivity fees.
Likewise, Louisiana‘s 20+ landbased and riverboat casinos containing over 18,000 slot machines paid out $600 million in state taxes in 2020. Yet bans remain fully in place across the border in Texas.
"Texans are clearly open to casinos looking at traffic to neighboring states," said John Jackson of the Texas Casino Association. "But attitudes shift slowly."
Projected Impacts If Casino Bans Were Lifted
A 2017 study commissioned by the Texas Gaming Association estimated casinos could support over 75,000 jobs and yield as much as $9.7 billion in annual gross gaming revenue if legalized. Of course, major regulatory structures would need to be built from the ground up were casino laws to change.
Appropriate oversight measures similar to other states would be essential to mitigate problem gambling risks. Everything from age limits to licensing procedures would require establishment. Based on other states, reasonable estimates suggest Texas could see:
- $2.5-3 billion in tax revenue
- 40,000-50,000 new direct jobs
- $5+ billion in economic activity
Texas Keeps the Casino Ban Despite Shifting Attitudes
For now, the decades-old casino prohibition enshrined in the Texas Constitution remains politically entrenched, even as public views gradually grow more neutral. With supporters and opponents fiercely divided, neither side has gained the upper hand just yet.
To legalize casinos, Texas policymakers still face the tall order of amending the constitution – a challenge that‘s kept Las Vegas-style gambling off limits in the Lone Star State for over a century now. Until casino advocates can overcome those tricky procedural hurdles, visitors to Texas will need to stick with bingo halls and racetracks for gaming options.