The poker industry in America has faced a lot of pressure during the last few years from a number of different factions. Online poker enthusiasts have been dismayed by the slow progress of online gambling legislation as there are currently only four states in America that have regulated online poker and they are Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania – which is yet to launch online gambling operations.
Live poker action has also taken a hit because competition from other gaming options such as slot machines and table games like baccarat have also hurt live poker action. Gambling opponents have continued their assault against all forms of gaming and their recent push is towards the fledgling poker industry in the state of Texas.
Poker Club Fight In Texas Not Helping
Texas does not allow casino style gambling and you cannot run an official poker room. However, there are workarounds and a number of poker clubs have opened up as private clubs in recent times. One of these poker clubs located in Austin recently sued another poker club that operates in San Antonio.
Lawyers for Austin Card Room basically told the San Antonio-based club that they weren’t doing it right. This lawsuit has prevented the state’s Attorney General from speaking out regarding the legality of commercial rooms because a seven-year-old policy prohibits his office from commenting on issues that are subject to pending litigation.
Some groups that represent poker houses in Texas had been given the opportunity to submit briefs to the Attorney General with respect to legality but none of them did. Texas’ constitution bans most forms of gambling although the state’s lottery, charity bingo, charity raffles, and pari-mutuel betting are exempt.
Home Games Versus Private Clubs
Home games that are held in private residences are given a limited exemption but commercial poker clubs claim this same exemption because they call themselves private clubs. However, it is quite a stretch to believe that these poker rooms are actually private clubs when all it takes is valid ID and a bit of money to get into one. There’s nothing really private about that. One poker club in Austin operates out of a commercial building right on the interstate. That’s about as public a place a one could think of.
Another part of the law that concerns home poker games is that nobody can benefit financially from the game except for the money that is won and lost. In other words, having a “rake” is the one element that suddenly turns a friendly home game into a commercial venture. Some poker rooms find loopholes in the rule. Instead of having a rake, some clubs charge membership fees while others have seat charges. The law seems to make it clear that those types of places are operating illegally.
Dealing With Illegal Poker Rooms
Abeline and Webster are two municipalities that have presented “cease and desist” letters to poker houses in their jurisdictions. Dallas and Plano have taken an entirely different approach. Instead of taking the passive and polite route which is usually ineffective, those cities have been enforcing the law by conducting raids. This method sends a much clearer message than politely-written letters and the results are showing as there are now fewer poker clubs in Dallas and Plano.
The court files in the Austin Card Room pleadings allege that the card room in San Antonio has violated the Texas Penal Code while the San Antonio-based club responded by referring to the Austin Card Room as having “unclean hands” and an aura of illegality. Many would agree with both sides.
Texas Against Gambling Wants Immediate Raids
With all of this in mind, a group called Texas Against Gambling (TAG) has suggested that law enforcement should forgo issuing ineffective “cease and desist” letters and simply go ahead and raid the offenders. This method seems to have worked very well in places like Dallas and Plano and the group rightfully argues that raids would be effective in other areas of Texas.
TAG believes that these clubs have manipulated loopholes in gaming legislation and are running illegal operations that need to be shut down immediately. TAG sometimes uses another name in its campaigns and goes by the handle ‘Stop Predatory Gambling Texas’.

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