History of Texas Combative Sports Statutes

2008 marked the 75th anniversary of combative sports regulation in Texas. In 1933, the Texas Legislature made lawful “the promoting, conducting, or maintaining of fistic combat or wrestling matches, boxing or sparring contests or exhibitions for money remuneration, purses or prize equivalent to be received by the participants or contestants, or where an admission fee thereto or therefore is charged or received,” the following reflects the regulatory history of the combative sports industry in Texas from 1925 to 1989.

1925

The 1925 Texas Penal Code prohibited “pugilistic encounters.” It stated:

Art. 610. Pugilistic encounters prohibited. -- Any person who shall voluntarily engage in a pugilistic encounter between man and man, or a fight between a man and a bull, or any other animal, for money or other thing of value, or for any championship, or upon the result of which any money or anything of value is bet or wagered, or to see which any admission fee is charged, either directly or indirectly, shall be imprisoned in the penitentiary for not less than two nor more than five years.

Art. 612. Moving pictures of prize fights. -- No person, association, corporation, or any agent or employee of any person, association, corporation or receiver, partnership or firm shall give or present to the public an exhibition of prize fights or glove contests, or of any obscene, indecent or immoral picture of any character whatsoever, by means of moving picture films, bioscopes, vitascopes, magic lanterns or other device or devices in moving picture shows, theaters, or any other place whatsoever.

[Vernon's Texas Penal Code, Art. 610 & 612 (1925).]

1933

On June 13, 1933, the 43rd Texas Legislature approved House Bill 832, which proclaimed that:

“The promoting, conducting, or maintaining of fistic combat or wrestling matches, boxing or sparring contests or exhibitions for money remuneration, purses or prize equivalent to be received by the participants or contestants, or where an admission fee thereto or therefore is charged or received, shall be lawful in Texas, except on Sunday, subject to supervision by the Commissioner of Labor Statistics.”

[Acts of June 13, 1933, 43rd Legis. Reg. Session, Chapter 241, Section 1, page 843]

Some interesting features of initial enactment:

Commissioner of Labor was given the authority to enforce the Act and adopt rules

Promoter registration fees were set on a sliding scale (based on populations)

$50 for “operating or promoting” in a city not exceeding 25,000

$100 for “operating or promoting” in a city of more than 25,000, but not exceeding 75,000

$200 for “operating or promoting” in a city exceeding 75,000

Surety Bond requirement of $6,500 to secure payment of 3% gross receipts tax (which had to be paid within 48 hours of the event)

Boxer registration fee of $5; Manager registration fee of $25

Specific requirements of the Act were:

No fistic combat match, boxing, sparring or wrestling contest or exhibition on Sunday;

No one under 18 years of age could participate in a professional fistic combat match, boxing, sparring or wrestling contest or exhibition;

No one under 21 years of age could participate in a professional championship fistic combat match, boxing, sparring or wrestling contest or exhibition;

Prohibited gambling, betting, or wagering on the character, result or any contingency in connection with a fistic combat match, boxing, sparring or wrestling contest or exhibition;

Required each contestant to be examined within 2 hours of the event by a duly licensed and practicing physician, who was required to find the contestant fit to engage in the event;

Required a physician in attendance for the entire length of the event;

Limited any fistic combat match, boxing, sparring or wrestling contest or exhibition to 10 rounds; 15 rounds for a championship event;

Limited rounds to no longer than 3 minutes, with no less than 1 minute between rounds; and

Required padded gloves of at least 6 ounces.

Violations of the Act were subject to fines of no less than $25 and no more than $250.

In a special called session later that same summer, the 43rd Texas Legislature passed a resolution stating that the intention of the Legislature was not to regulate state or national amateur events such as the Olympics.

[House Concurrent Resolution No. 40, 43rd Legis. 1st Called Session, p. 382 (1933)]

1941

In 1941, the 47th Texas Legislature amended the Act with the apparent main objective of lowering the promoter fees and surety bond amounts as follows:

Promoter registration fees were set on a sliding scale (based on populations)

$10 for events in cities less than 7,500;

$20 for events in cities of at least 7,501, but less than 17,500;

$30 for events in cities of at least 17,501, but less than 25,000;

$100 for events in cities of at least 25,001, but less than 75,000;

$200 for events in cities over 75,000.

Surety Bond requirements were set on a similar sliding scale (based on population) such that the bond amount was:

$300 for events in cities less than 7,500;

$500 for events in cities of at least 7,501, but less than 17,500;

$750 for events in cities of at least 17,501, but less than 25,000;

$1,000 for events in cities over 25,000.

[Acts of 1941, 47th Legis. Reg. Session, Ch 377, p. 625]

1973

In 1973, the 63rd Texas Legislature:

Removed the Combative Sports provisions from the Penal Code, and put those provisions in the Civil Statutes Articles 8501-1 through 8501-17; and

Repealed the provisions of the 1925 Penal Code which made it a felony to:

voluntarily engage in a pugilistic encounter between man and man, or a fight between a man and a bull;

give or present to the public an exhibition of prize fights or glove contests, or of any obscene, indecent or immoral picture of any character whatsoever, by means of moving picture films, bioscopes, vitascopes, magic lanterns or other device.

[Acts of 1973, 63rd Legis. Reg. Session, Ch. 399, p 995]

Changed the name of the Bureau of Labor Statistics to the Texas Department of Labor and Standards.

[Acts of June 14, 1973, 63rd Legis. Reg. Session, Ch. 434, p 1185]

1977

In 1977, the 65th Texas Legislature:

Enacted the “Texas Boxing and Wrestling Act.” Effectively, this Act just re-organized the combative sports statutes. It included a definition of “Commissioner” as the Commissioner of the Texas Department of Labor and Standards, and of “Boxing” to include kickboxing, a form of boxing in which blows are delivered with any part of the arm below the shoulder, including the hand, and any part of the leg below the hip, including the foot.

[Acts of May 30, 1977, 65th Legis. Reg. Session, 305, p. 815]

1989

In 1989, the 71st Texas Legislature created:

the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) and transferred the licensing functions of the Texas Department of Labor and Standards to the new TDLR; and

the Texas Boxing and Wrestling Act was amended to reflect the new TDLR, to remove wrestling from the regulation of boxing by TDLR, and to provide for registration of wrestling promoters with the Secretary Of State.

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