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Two Texas Poker Rooms Raided For Organized Criminal Activity And Money Laundering

District Attorney Says "Poker Rooms Are Illegal In Texas"

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A pair of Houston card rooms were raided by local law enforcement Wednesday afternoon and more crackdowns of these establishments might be on the way.

Prime Social Club and Post Oak Poker Club were raided by officers from the Vice Division of the Houston Police Department. In total, nine owners and managers were arrested on charges of money laundering and engaging in organized criminal activity.

“Poker rooms are illegal in Texas,” District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement. “We are changing the paradigm regarding illegal gambling by moving up the criminal chain and pursuing felony money laundering and engaging in organized crime charges against owners and operators.”

Officers seized computers and hard drives in the raid. At Prime Social Club, the raid took place just a few minutes before the start of a $580 no-limit hold’em tournament with a $150,000 guaranteed prize pool.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told local media that this is just the start of a larger crackdown on poker rooms in Houston.

“We’re not going to tolerate it,” Acevedo told the local ABC News affiliate. “We got two of the bigger ones today and this is just the beginning. We need to shut them down. If you want to have these kind of establishments, the legislature needs to authorize it. Otherwise, we’re going to do our jobs and shut them down.”

Law enforcement clearly believes these clubs are breaking the state’s gambling laws. The operators, on the other hand, believe that they are in full compliance with state law since they don’t collect a rake. The card rooms only charge membership fees and consider themselves a private club.

“We’re just facilitating the play between the players,” said Daniel Kebort, one of the five owners of the Post Oak Poker Club that were arrested yesterday.

Wayne Dolcefino, who worked for Prime Social Club both in researching the law before the club opened its doors and in promoting certain events, said that the idea that they are hiding a criminal operation is laughable.

“In my view, a business trying to cover their tracks wouldn’t be in a giant building on Westheimer,” said Dolcefino.

While no players were arrested, both clubs had their bank accounts and assets frozen. According to an October 2018 article from the San Antonio Express, there are “about 40” of these poker clubs operating throughout the state.