Farmers Branch City Council Votes Down Card Room Proposal

Written By Phil West on May 13, 2024
Dallas skyline, where nearby Farmer's Branch opposed a petition to rezone land for a Doug Polk Texas card room.

The Farmers Branch City Council met last week to hear from those who supported a proposal to put a card room in the city and those who opposed it—and then voted 4-1 to turn down the opportunity.

Doug Polk, a three-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner and the co-founder of online poker training website Upswing Poker, aimed to bring a card room similar to his massive Round Rock location, Lodge Card Club, to Farmers Branch.

The membership-based Lodge, open 24/7 in one of Austin’s principal suburbs, is a 27,000-square-foot facility that draws about 200,000 guests annually and employs about 200 people.

Online poker is illegal in Texas, and Texas card rooms, while unregulated, represent one of the few forms of legal gambling in the state.

Doug Polk Undeterred Despite Unfavorable Farmer’s Branch Vote

Polk took to social media platform X (formerly Twitter) after the vote, first pledging, “I’ll be back,” and then stating,

“Want to thank everyone that came out tonight. Lots of people came and spoke. I appreciate [them] supporting our concept. I also recognize lots of people who spoke against were trying to do what’s best for their town. Overall, they were respectful. Lots of great people in Farmers Branch.”

Scot Fahrenbruch, one of the 25 people who spoke for the measure (27 people spoke against it), responded to Polk on X, saying,

“We all did our best to dispel the stereotypes, but in the end, it’s hard to fight a government seeded deep in their religious and moral beliefs. I’m all in next time.”

The testimony took up the bulk of a City Council meeting that stretched past the five-hour mark. Polk told the Dallas Morning News following the vote,

“I need to first get a good night’s sleep, but I need to meet with more people and build more alliances. I think a lot of people here in North Texas are reasonable and we can convince them that this is a good thing. I’m hoping one day we can show them that a card room is the best thing for this and other cities.”

North Texas Card Rooms Exist On Shaky Footing

It’s unclear whether Farmers Branch, 15 miles northwest of Dallas within the massive North Texas metroplex, will ever be friendly to what Polk proposes—converting a 47,000-square-foot facility in a warehouse-heavy part of the city at 4880 Alpha Road into a card room, offering memberships and seat rentals (as Lodge Card Club does) to conform with Texas’s nebulous rules around card rooms. While a number of municipalities in the Metroplex expressly prohibit card rooms, Farmers Branch and Dallas County do not.

Dallas City Councilman Chad West, who has been campaigning for months to bring clarity on the issue in his hometown, hopes that the city will decide in favor of the venues and allow additional card rooms to open.

Texas Card House, which got a license to operate as a card room in 2019, is still allowed to operate despite finding itself in legal limbo. West told PlayTexas on Wednesday that the issue is still pending in the Dallas Planning Commission, where it’s been since it failed to get a recommendation from the city’s Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee (ZOAC) in early March.

At the time, West said, “My understanding is that ZOAC moved the item along to the Plan[ning] Commission based on the group’s lack of understanding of the legal parameters involved here. Unlike that subcommittee, the Plan[ning] Commission will benefit from legal advice from the City Attorney’s Office in combing through the proposed use category.”

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Phil West

Phil West is a longtime journalist based in Austin, Texas, whose bylines have appeared in The Daily Dot, Nautilus, Pro Soccer USA, Howler, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Chronicle. He has also written two books about soccer.

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