It's such a hot button topic. Not just in Texas, but the entire country.

Legalized gambling.

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So what is the ultimate debate here? Why isn't gambling something that's allowed in all states? Well, I've heard a myriad of reasons, and I gotta say I've got a rebuke for all of them.

To be fair, I enjoy gambling. It's a break from reality, something that keeps me entertained and gives me something to chase after right? No, I'm not addicted to gambling and can live without it, but I can tell you I'd vote yes in a heartbeat.

Just because it's not legalized in the state doesn't mean there aren't ways for it to be done. Sure, they're probably not the safest options (like a bookie), but if someone wants it bad enough, they're going to find a way.

I recognize the dangers of gambling. It's addictive. If you aren't smart about it, gambling can send you down a road of ruin. So can alcohol and tobacco, and it's legal.

In fact, some forms of gambling ARE legal in the state of Texas. I know, because I participate in them. There's also things that perplex me about what's NOT legal, and we'll go over that.

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DAILY FANTASY SPORTS (DFS)

Let's start here shall we? Fantasy sports have been around for decades. However, DFS platforms such as DraftKings and FanDuel have been around for far less time. The traditional fantasy sports leagues are season long leagues where teams are pitted up against each other week by week. A champion is crowned after the playoffs and in most cases, a payout is bestowed upon the winner. Yes, I said payout. People have been paying entry fees for years to play in these leagues.

Then one day, these new platforms popped up. DraftKings and FanDuel started offering daily fantasy sports. If you don't know how it works, allow me to explain. You have a salary cap you can't go over. You choose players to place in certain positions based on salary and projected performance. They accrue fantasy points as they do things throughout their game. If your team amasses a high number of fantasy points, you win money.

Sure sounds like gambling to me, doesn't it? You pay an entry fee to get into the contests and either lose it all or gain a profit. Last time I checked, same thing could happen at a blackjack table or slot machine.

These DFS platforms are available to play in 44 of 50 states. Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii and Nevada are the states where you can't play these games. Nevada seems a bit strange simply because every form of gambling is legal and available there, but that probably has something to do with it. Keep in mind a state you don't see on the can't play list...Texas.

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HORSE RACING

This one boggles me to absolutely no end. In the state of Texas, we have 4 horse racing tracks available to us to enjoy. Lone Star Park, Sam Houston Race Park, Retama Park and Gillespie Fair & Festivals. Every single one of these tracks has live racing over the course of the year, as well as daily simulcasting. Plenty of ways to get in on the action right?

We are the home of the American Quarter Horse Association right here in Amarillo, yet we don't have a racetrack within 5 hours of us. Clearly we deserve a way to place wagers on horses here in the Panhandle if they think highly enough of us to have their headquarters here.

Unfortunately, there's no way to do that. Why? Because for some strange reason, online betting of horses in the state of Texas is not allowed. If you try to signup for an account on say TVG.com, you'll be turned away the second you enter Texas as the state you live in.

This makes literally ZERO sense to me. How is it we are allowed to have horse racing tracks in the state that you can go wager money at, yet you can't do it online? That's like saying "it's legal-ish". If you're going to allow it in person, you should allow it online. The double standard is weird.

Gustavo Caballero

POKER CLUBS

While we don't have any of these here in Amarillo, you can find these in Lubbock. When I lived in Austin, there were several around the city.

No, these aren't dark and dirty clubs like you see in the movies. They are full on card rooms with at last 10 tables to play cards at. They run tournaments and even have cash games...but there are rules to them, and the clubs have found ways around it.

First things first, they call themselves poker clubs and card houses. Nothing about casino or anything like that.

You pay an entry fee just like you would at a casino. That would technically be an illegal card game in the state of Texas. So, how do they get around it? They charge you what's called an "access fee". It's the access fee that allows them to call themselves a "club", thus skirting the gambling laws of Texas.

These games turn out some huge pots. There are add-on's throughout the tournaments, re-buy's, etc. that just add to the guaranteed payout at the end of the night. It's no different than anything that happens in a Vegas card room, but it's an "exclusive, members only" sort of thing...and anyone can become a member, even if for one night.

Credit: American Quarter Horse Foundation Hall of Fame & Museum via Facebook

HOW CAN THE PANHANDLE LEAD THE CHARGE

Now that I've laid everything out as far as what's allowed and not allowed in Texas, it's time to look at how and why the Panhandle should take the lead on legalizing gambling in the state.

First off, I mentioned how we are the home of the AQHA. Every 10 years or so, they threaten to leave and go to Dallas or somewhere like that. Why? Well, Dallas has race tracks with live racing and simulcasting. I mean, it makes sense right?

I'd imagine there wouldn't be a bigger champion than the AQHA when it comes to allowing online betting of horse racing in the state. I could also see them making a charge for having an actual race facility built right here in Amarillo. They could really sink their teeth into that one.

When it comes to the poker clubs, first things first, we need one to pop up here in Amarillo. I haven't delved into city laws as to whether or not it's even allowed within city limits, but we need to get one or two here.

Once that happens, the owners of those places can show how they're thriving here just like everywhere else, and legalizing it without having to tack on extra "member fees" will only draw in more people...and more revenue for the state.

I know there are plenty of people in Amarillo and the Panhandle that play DFS games, and I'd bet a fair amount of them find ways to bet on games as well. The DFS games are essentially born from sports betting, which by the way those same DFS companies are offering.

There are 19 states left that don't offer sports betting in any capacity. The problem with Texas is this. We're watching money that could stay right here in the state walk across the border New Mexico or Louisiana where betting on sports is allowed. I haven't done it personally...yet.

Amarillo is a growing city, and people are increasingly moving to the Panhandle. If we want to capitalize on that growth, we have to think outside the box. Being a leader and champion for allowing sports betting, online horse racing and gambling in the state would turn us into one of the "go-to" places. There's more than enough room to build ALL of these things in the area, so why are we letting revenue walk into other states?

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