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Dallas City Leaders Look To Legalize Poker Clubs

City Seeks Special Zoning For ‘Private Game Clubs’

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Finally allowing poker clubs in the city of Dallas could be on the horizon. The Texas clubs have flourished across the state in recent years but have seen less traction in much of North Texas. That now could be changing.

After years of litigation, city officials are now apparently looking to find common ground and allow clubs to operate legally. That includes creating a new land use category for private game clubs that would also include poker.

“A private game club means a private place that is only open to its members that primarily offers competitive gaming facilities including games of skill such as ax throwing, darts, or shuffle board,” Dallas interim chief of general counsel Bertram Vandenberg said at a city council meeting this week. “Any games played with cards, dice, balls, or any other gambling device as defined in the Texas Penal Code Chapter 47 are allowed only as a single accessory use.”

Finding Common Ground

The city has been averse to allowing poker clubs in recent years. Texas Card House opened as the city’s first legal poker room in 2019 after receiving a certificate of occupancy. However, city officials revoked that in 2021, as well as from the Shuffle 214 club.

The city then became locked in litigation against the clubs and its own board of adjustments, approving $300,000 for the efforts in January followed by another $70,000 in June.

In January, council member Chad West asked city staff to look into finding a land use category that might accommodate the clubs. Vandenberg said the Dallas zoning committee is continuing to study the issue. The plan appears to at least offer a path forward to end the legislation.

Poker rooms in the Lone Star State operate using a social club model, paying dues or fees similar to what one might find in a golf country club. The rooms have become extremely popular and offer regular cash games and tournaments. Even poker heavyweights like Doug Polk and Phil Hellmuth have invested in Texas card rooms in recent years.

Texas Card House CEO Ryan Crow has had discussions with the city about possibly finding a resolution. He believes some on the council want to see the issue come to a close.

“We’ve just been nudging them to do something so that we can end the legal part of it because it’s just incredibly expensive,” Crow told the Dallas Observer. “We’d rather be working together to find a solution than fighting it out with attorneys.”

Texas has a long history with poker. Players like Doyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim Preston, and Johnny Moss became legends playing cards at the World Series of Poker. The event’s creator, Benny Binion, is also originally from the Dallas area.