Judge Deals Serious Blow to Texas Card Rooms

Written By Rashid Mohamed on November 14, 2022
Texas card rooms dealt bad hand by judge

sIn the ongoing legal turmoil involving the Texas Card House, a District Court judge dealt the business and card rooms across Texas a serious blow.

Dallas building inspector brought suit

Lawmakers and city managers have questioned the legality of card rooms for years. There’s no law making them legal in Texas, but there’s also no specific law prohibiting them, either. Most card rooms operate by adhering to key components of Texas’ strict anti-gambling laws.

Dallas Interim Building Inspector David Session filed the lawsuit. He argued that the Certificate of Occupancy the Texas Card House was granted by the Dallas Board of Adjustment was unlawful.

District Court Judge Eric V. Moye sided with Session.

Texas Card House remains defiant

There’s no doubt the court’s ruling is a setback for the Texas poker community and card rooms across the state. Perhaps, though, it’s only a minor hitch. Texas Card House is expected to file an appeal.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. Last month, ahead of the Oct. 25 court date, Texas Card House CEO Ryan Crow told PokerNews he expected the case would go all the way to the state’s Supreme Court.

If the lawsuit makes it that far and the court renders an unfavorable ruling, that could be the coup de grâce for poker rooms in Texas. Still, the card room remains defiant. It’s keeping its doors open for punters as it prepares itself for a long legal fight.

Texas Card House won its first appeal

Things started to go south for Texas Card House Dallas early in the year when the city revoked its Certificate of Occupancy . This surprised TCH Dallas because only two years prior, in 2020, the city approved the business model for TCH.

Interestingly, the same city council member who at first supported the business plan has since reneged on that endorsement.

TCH immediately appealed the revocation, and two months later, in March, the Dallas Board of Adjustment voted in favor of that petition. But before the poker club could rejoice in the verdict, in stepped Session. He brought a lawsuit against the Dallas board, claiming they illegally reversed the occupancy decision.

Last Thursday, Moye came out in favor of Session, writing:

“The Court finds that the Board of Adjustment abused its discretion and made an illegal decision when it reversed the Building Official’s revocation of Certification of Occupancy number 2003031040, which was issued in violation of state law to ‘Ryan Crow’ DBA Texas Card House.”

The law of the land

Poker rooms throughout Texas like the Texas Card House operate as social clubs. They never take rakes out of a cash game. Instead, they earn their keep by charging membership and seat fees.

Taking a rake would be deemed illegal. However, many legislators argue the same can be said about the club-based model.

According to Texas Penal Code 47.04, the game is considered legal if:

  • The gambling takes place in a private place
  • No economic benefit other than personal earnings were received from the game
  • Every player had a fair shot at winning

Lawmakers are at odds as to what the term ‘economic benefit’ truly means. Some officials argue the term implies that as long as a rake isn’t taken, the poker is legal. Others contend that any money generated in a card house while poker is being played–concessions, seat fees, drinks–represents an economic benefit.

In all likelihood, what will happen next is that in the coming years, the Texas Supreme Court will determine the legality of poker in the state through the ongoing Texas Card House case.

Either that or lawmakers will sit down and hammer out new wording that clarifies the legal position of poker in Texas once and for all.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Rashid Mohamed

Rashid Mohamed is an international journalist with a special interest in sports writing. He contributes regularly to PlayTexas, focusing on both the pathway to gaming legalization and the underground market in the state. He is a Poli-Sci graduate of Ohio University and holds an A.A.S in Journalism. He has worked in a number of countries and has extensive experience in the United Nations as well as other regional, national, and international organizations. Rashid lives and writes out of Denver, Colorado.

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