Were You Charged With a Felony Gambling Crime?

Whether you’re accused of operating an illegal game room, engaging in organized criminal activity related to gambling, or any other felony-level gambling offense, the consequences can be severe. This can mean potential prison sentences, fines, and a felony conviction on your record. Prosecutors come down hard on these cases, so you need a defense strategy that matches their aggression.

At Whalen Law Office, we exclusively handle criminal defense for felony-level gambling charges in Texas at both the state and federal levels. Our team has decades of experience defending clients against the full range of gambling-related accusations, from sports betting and poker rooms to money laundering conspiracies. No matter how broad the alleged operation, we have the legal firepower to dismantle the prosecution’s case and fight for the most favorable resolution possible.

Texas Law Strictly Defines What Constitutes Illegal Gambling

Moving from general meanings to express terms, the Texas Penal Code clearly defines what illegal gambling includes:

  • Betting on the partial or final result of a game or contest.
  • Betting on the performance of a participant in a game or contest.
  • Betting on the result of any political nomination, appointment, or election.
  • Playing and betting for money or other things of value at any game played with cards, dice, balls, or any other gambling device.

Illegal Gambling Prohibited Under Both Texas and Federal Law

Texas heavily regulates gambling, with most forms prohibited under Chapter 47 of the Texas Penal Code.

Illegal gambling under Texas law generally includes:

  • Using real property as a gambling place.
  • Engaging in bookmaking.
  • Participating in the earnings of a gambling place.
  • Becoming the custodian of anything of value bet or offered to be bet.

A few narrow exceptions exist, such as certain charitable raffles and social gambling. But in general, gambling is illegal.

The following federal laws also restrict gambling in Texas:

So, you could potentially face both state and federal charges for running an illegal gambling operation in Texas, making the possibility of conviction high.

Federal Illegal Gambling Charges

As mentioned above, gambling is a crime under federal law, too. The Illegal Gambling Business Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1955, makes it a felony to operate an illegal gambling business anywhere in the United States.

The gambling business must:

  • Violate Texas Penal Code Section 47.04 or other gambling statutes found in Chapter 47.
  • Involve five or more people who conduct, finance, manage, supervise, direct, or own all or part of the business.
  • Remain in substantially continuous operation for over 30 days or gross over $2,000 daily.

If convicted, you could face steep federal penalties:

  • Up to five years in federal prison.
  • Fines up to $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for organizations for each offense.
  • Forfeiture of property used in the illegal gambling business.

More on “Keeping a Gambling Place” Texas Gambling Law

The Texas Penal Code Section 47.04 specifically targets individuals who operate illegal gambling establishments. This statute makes it an offense to knowingly use or permit another to use the property as a “gambling place.”

Place Defined

A gambling place is any real estate, building, room, tent, vehicle, boat, or other property used for gambling. The statute applies when the owner or occupant knowingly permits gambling to occur on the property or doesn’t take steps to prevent it.


Keeping a gambling place is a Class A misdemeanor in Texas, punishable by:

  • Up to 1 year in county jail.
  • A fine of up to $4,000.
  • Both jail time and a fine.

However, repeat offenses can lead to state jail felony charges, making it necessary to seek counsel from a criminal defense attorney immediately after the police accuse you of running an illegal game room or gambling spot in Texas.

Texas Carries Felony-Level Charges for Gambling Crimes

While many state gambling offenses are misdemeanors, certain crimes rise to the level of a felony under Texas law. These more serious charges can lead to lengthy prison sentences and stiff fines.

Felony gambling offenses in Texas include:

  • Engaging in organized criminal activity related to gambling.
  • Keeping a gambling place as a repeat offense.
  • Intentionally or knowingly operating a gambling place (gambling promotion).
  • Promoting high-stakes gambling or a casino.
  • Possession of a gambling device or equipment with the intent to further gambling.

If you’re facing felony gambling charges, you need an aggressive defense attorney from the Whalen Law Office on your side right away. A conviction could upend your entire life, so don’t delay seeking legal representation.

Other Statutes and Offenses for Gambling Convictions in Texas

Along with 18 U.S.C. § 1955 and the state’s “keeping a gambling place” laws, Texas holds other penalties for illegal gambling that carry significant jail time and fines.

For example:

Promoting high-stakes gambling may lead to first-degree felony charges under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. So, while illegal gambling may seem like a minor crime, a conviction can be very costly.

Prosecutors can also enhance sentences to state jail felonies when these gambling offenses include gang activity, racketeering, or organized crime.

Aggravating factors like repeat offenses or engaging in organized crime may likewise enhance charges and penalties. And remember, gambling convictions create a permanent criminal record that can impact your job, housing, and reputation for years to come.

Potential Defenses Against Illegal Gambling Offenses

Facing illegal gambling charges doesn’t mean a conviction is guaranteed. Depending on the facts of your case, the Whalen Law Office can raise one or more defenses on your behalf.

Some potential defenses to Texas gambling charges include:

  • Innocence: You didn’t know gambling was occurring on the property.
  • Mistake of Law: Arguing the gaming machines in question do not meet the legal definition of “gambling devices.”
  • Mistake of fact: You reasonably believed the gambling was legal.
  • No bet or wager: Money was not risked on an uncertain outcome.
  • Private: Showing the games being played were private, nonprofit, and not illegal gambling under the law.
  • Game of skill: The game involved skill rather than chance.
  • Entrapment: Law enforcement induced you to commit the crime.
  • Illegal search: Evidence against you was obtained through an unlawful search or seizure.

Sometimes, your gambling defense attorney may negotiate with prosecutors for reduced charges or a complete dismissal.

However, the Whalen Law Office is prepared to vigorously defend your rights at trial when plea deals come out of play.

Every case is different, but with the right defense strategy, you may avoid a conviction or minimize the fallout from your charges.

How to Avoid Gambling Convictions Legal in Texas

If you operate a “legal” gambling establishment or game room in Texas, you must carefully manage your business and comply with the state’s strict gambling statutes to avoid a felony gambling conviction.

Some key considerations:

  • Ensure the state cannot classify your gaming machines or devices as illegal “gambling devices under Texas law
  • Never allow any form of sports booking, betting on games of chance, or other prohibited gambling promotion on the premises.
  • Avoid participating in or taking a cut of any illegal gambling happening at your location.
  • Do not engage in any advertising of illegal gambling activities.

When in doubt, consult with the knowledgeable gambling attorneys at the Whalen Law Office.

They can advise you on how to keep your game room legal and above water. Addressing potential issues proactively also steers you clear of criminal charges that put your business and freedom at risk.

Experienced Illegal Gambling Defense Attorneys in Texas

When you’re up against illegal gambling charges, having the right criminal defense attorney helping you makes a big difference.

The Whalen Law Office protects your rights, builds the strongest possible case in your defense, and fights for reduced illegal gambling charges or a dismissal.

Remember, talk to us before speaking with investigators or prosecutors about your gambling place or activities.

The police can use everything you say against you, so you must be careful. Our criminal defense attorneys will communicate with authorities on your behalf and ensure you don’t accidentally jeopardize your case.

Reach out to the Whalen Law Office in Texas today for a confidential consultation. The sooner you have legal representation, the better your chances of successfully resolving your case.