The fight between the city of Dallas and the local poker rooms could turn out to be a costly one for lawmakers.
That was just the beginning of an ongoing legal battle that has already gone through multiple appeals and could potentially end up in the Texas Supreme Court where a ruling on the legality of poker statewide could be made, if it gets that far.
Last spring, the city’s Board of Adjustment ruled to reinstate TCH Dallas’ Certificate of Occupancy. Andrew Espinoza, a chief building official in Dallas, then sued the BOA for as he claims they illegally reversed the COO revocation. He won the case and now an appeal is in the process.
Taxpayers to Front Bill to Stop Texas Poker Rooms?
Texas Card House and Shuffle 214, another Dallas poker club facing similar legal issues, have their own attorneys, but for this case to continue moving forward, the city of Dallas must decide if it wants to spend additional taxpayer money.
According to the Dallas Morning News, the city has already spent $200,000 on this case. Future expenses could surpass $600,000, a hefty bill for taxpayers, especially those who have no vested interest in poker.
The price tag for legal fees is two-fold. Per the Dallas Morning News report, $300,000 would be used for Espinoza’s defense and the other half to defend the Board of Adjustment in an appeal.
Texas poker rooms operate in a rather unique manner due to strict gambling laws in the Lone Star State. Instead of collecting rake, which is illegal in Texas, the businesses charge membership and seat fees. This practice, however, is still considered illegal by some lawmakers. But dozens of poker rooms in the state have popped up in the past few years as many others believe the wording in Texas Penal Code 47.04 permits gambling under the social club model.
Texas Card House and Shuffle 214 have remained in operation during the legal battles. Last month, a Texas judge ordered the city of Dallas to leave the poker rooms alone during the appeals process.
The legal poker battle in Texas is expected to heat up in 2023, not only in Dallas, but also in regards to the October raid at the Watauga Social Lounge Poker Club. A court date for that incident is set for later this month.
Additionally, late last year Texas lawmaker Gene Wu (D-Houston) introduced House Bill 732 to address the “social club” loophole. He told PokerNews in an interview that his intentions aren’t to ban poker in the state, but instead leave it up to individual counties to determine legality.
“We’re supportive of full legalized gambling across the state,” the Democratic politician said.
The Texas Legislative Session convenes the second Tuesday in January of odd-numbered years (it’s a biennial system), so poker players in Texas will have to wait until 2023 to see what ultimately develops. PokerNews will bring updates if and when they happen.