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Dallas Officials Looking To Clarify Poker Club Rules

Obstacles Still Remain To Legalize Card Rooms

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Dallas, TexasAfter policy changes and legal wranglings for a few years, the city of Dallas is now considering regulations to make poker clubs legal.

The clubs have popped up all across the state, despite some questioning their legality. City officials may be looking to embrace the trend to some degree.

The city council has pushed officials to clear up the controversy to help bring an end to costly litigation. However, there are still some hurdles and approval of a rule accepting the clubs is anything but a certainty.

“The Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee was briefed on the resulting proposal last week and forwarded it to the City Plan Commission with a recommendation against adoption,” the Dallas Morning News recently noted in an editorial this week lobbying against the plan.

Finding A Resolution

The City Plan Commission could also reject the proposal, but the city council will have the final say on whether the poker action is a go or players are out of luck within the city limits.

The current proposal came after councilman Chad West asked city staff in December to create 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. “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.”

The city initially approved a certificate of occupancy for Texas Card House in 2019, but backtracked in 2021 – revoking that as well as approval for another club. The legal battle between Texas Card House has since cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. Club CEO Ryan Crow has had discussions with city staff about reaching a resolution.

“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 last year. “We’d rather be working together to find a solution than fighting it out with attorneys.”

A Legal Grey Area?

Whether the clubs are actually legal under state law is still an open question to some gaming law experts.

“I think the poker clubs have some severe legal problems,” says Professor I. Nelson Rose, a gaming legal expert and publisher of the Gambling and the Law blog. “Arguing that poker, especially poker tournaments, are games of skill – that won’t work in Texas. ‘Gambling’ is defined as playing or betting for money, ‘at any game played with cards.’

“A person commits the crime of ‘gambling promotion,’ if he intentionally or knowingly operates or participates in the earnings of a gambling place. And ‘keeping a gambling place’ is a separate crime.”

Despite that, Texas legislators and law enforcement continue to allow the state’s poker industry to flourish. The Lone Star State also made some gaming-related news in recent months after Las Vegas Sands purchased a controlling interest in the Dallas Mavericks, hoping to one day to combine the basketball arena with a casino resort.

Photo: Twitter/X