Membership Poker Room in Texas

DrStrange

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Here are some relevant snips from the current Texas statutes. Please note that any sworn officer is able to act to enforce the law - local police, state police, officers serving special jurisdictions, constables, TABC officers (booze regulators) - basically anyone with a badge in Texas.

The state AG has ruled that something as trivial as getting a "you are the winner" printed page is a thing of value. Also ruled that a group buy of pizza or other food turns a legal poker game into an unlawful game. (because the cost per slice is lower due to the collective purchase rather than individual purchase.) Best I know, these are untested in court. But the point is the State has an exceptionally aggressive, expansive view of what a thing of value is. I have no doubt that seat fees, door charges, the sale of food and drink and dealer compensation are all considered things of value.

Please note that the owner of a leased building used for poker plus his/her managers are all subject to prosecution under the statute. Same thing for all the players, employees and independent contractors.

There is a "safe harbor" defense listed below. It is notable that Texas has several precedent cases involving "men's card rooms" at country clubs where the courts found the country club was a private place and that the fees to join and remain a member of the country club were not "a thing of value" related to poker played there. This is the entire defense for all the new crop of card rooms here in Texas.

A poker room with only a membership fee but no other charges is likely safer from prosecution than ones with a door charge, seat fee and under the table dealer tips. But even a card room trying to be lily white is running some risk. Shoot - - even my home game runs some faint risks. See the discussion about ordering pizza at a poker game.

I think every commercial poker room is running on borrowed time. They all rely on the discretion of local and state law enforcement. So far, things have gone ok. But tomorrow is another day and on that day the cops could come to break up the game.

DrStrange

Texas Statutes

CHAPTER 47. GAMBLING

§ 47.01. Definitions

In this chapter:

(9) "Thing of value" means any benefit, but does not include an unrecorded and immediate right of replay not exchangeable for value.

§ 47.02. Gambling

(3) plays and bets for money or other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice, balls, or any other gambling device.

§ 47.04. Keeping a Gambling Place

(a) A person commits an offense if he knowingly uses or permits another to use as a gambling place any real estate, building, room, tent, vehicle, boat, or other property whatsoever owned by him or under his control, or rents or lets any such property with a view or expectation that it be so used.

(d) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsections (a) and (c) that:

(1) the device, equipment, or paraphernalia is used for or is intended for use in gambling that is to occur entirely in a private place;

(2) a person involved in the gambling does not receive any economic benefit other than personal winnings; and

(3) except for the advantage of skill or luck, the chance of winning is the same for all participants.
 

dkersey

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Thanks DRs!

If I read this right, you just have to be a country club, right? Haha!
 

CraigT78

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Thanks DRs!

If I read this right, you just have to be a country club, right? Haha!
I think that's what these card rooms are trying to do. If they do away with seat rental charges might have a better shot?
 

CraigT78

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Here are some relevant snips from the current Texas statutes. Please note that any sworn officer is able to act to enforce the law - local police, state police, officers serving special jurisdictions, constables, TABC officers (booze regulators) - basically anyone with a badge in Texas.

The state AG has ruled that something as trivial as getting a "you are the winner" printed page is a thing of value. Also ruled that a group buy of pizza or other food turns a legal poker game into an unlawful game. (because the cost per slice is lower due to the collective purchase rather than individual purchase.) Best I know, these are untested in court. But the point is the State has an exceptionally aggressive, expansive view of what a thing of value is. I have no doubt that seat fees, door charges, the sale of food and drink and dealer compensation are all considered things of value.

Please note that the owner of a leased building used for poker plus his/her managers are all subject to prosecution under the statute. Same thing for all the players, employees and independent contractors.

There is a "safe harbor" defense listed below. It is notable that Texas has several precedent cases involving "men's card rooms" at country clubs where the courts found the country club was a private place and that the fees to join and remain a member of the country club were not "a thing of value" related to poker played there. This is the entire defense for all the new crop of card rooms here in Texas.

A poker room with only a membership fee but no other charges is likely safer from prosecution than ones with a door charge, seat fee and under the table dealer tips. But even a card room trying to be lily white is running some risk. Shoot - - even my home game runs some faint risks. See the discussion about ordering pizza at a poker game.

I think every commercial poker room is running on borrowed time. They all rely on the discretion of local and state law enforcement. So far, things have gone ok. But tomorrow is another day and on that day the cops could come to break up the game.

DrStrange

Texas Statutes

CHAPTER 47. GAMBLING

§ 47.01. Definitions

In this chapter:

(9) "Thing of value" means any benefit, but does not include an unrecorded and immediate right of replay not exchangeable for value.

§ 47.02. Gambling

(3) plays and bets for money or other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice, balls, or any other gambling device.

§ 47.04. Keeping a Gambling Place

(a) A person commits an offense if he knowingly uses or permits another to use as a gambling place any real estate, building, room, tent, vehicle, boat, or other property whatsoever owned by him or under his control, or rents or lets any such property with a view or expectation that it be so used.

(d) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsections (a) and (c) that:

(1) the device, equipment, or paraphernalia is used for or is intended for use in gambling that is to occur entirely in a private place;

(2) a person involved in the gambling does not receive any economic benefit other than personal winnings; and

(3) except for the advantage of skill or luck, the chance of winning is the same for all participants.
Based off this even giving a trophy would be illegal - crazy!
 

bankOman

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Anyone hear what steps the Plano room is going to take to try and fight the C&D? Curious if they're going to try and fight it or just close up shop for good?
 

dkersey

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I don't know how vigorously they are going to fight it and their legal arguments.

The owner did recently announce that he was shutting the room down out of respect for the process and to mitigate risk for his customers and employees.

There is another room in Plano (same city) that had recently opened up but was only open 4 days a week. A day after the established one announced the closure, the 2nd one announced they will be open 7 days a week....im sure this will be short lived.
 

chkmte

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I'm watching this thread with interest.

Recently, I took my son to "Chuck E. Cheese" for his 4th birthday. For me, it was like the 8th level of hell. I absolutely hated the place - loud, expensive, etc. Anyway, isn't this like a casino for kids? I mean, you put your money on a card, put the card in a machine, win tickets and redeem the tickets for junk prizes. Seriously, what's the difference between a "Chuck E. Cheese" type setup and a poker room like we're seeing in Texas?

TIA
 

David O

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It's Dallas. Lots of casino money paid to make sure license plates cross the boarders.
Difference between Austin and DFW Metroplex is the large amount of Southern Baptists in the area. It wasn't too long ago that Beer and liquor were illegal in many counties in DFW. You had to purchase a "membership" which allowed you to drink in the "private" , public establishment.
 

dkersey

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Difference between Austin and DFW Metroplex is the large amount of Southern Baptists in the area. It wasn't too long ago that Beer and liquor were illegal in many counties in DFW. You had to purchase a "membership" which allowed you to drink in the "private" , public establishment.
Interesting point about the general conservatism in the area compared to the Austin area, and probably true. Having grown up Southern Baptist in a small town, I know what you are referring to. However, this suburb is generally affluent, educated, and it is also very big (250K+) and most people have come from somewhere else in the country. I don't see the church groups making 1 room their target with so much more going on around them...including declining church attendance overall. And that whole "private membership" thing is long gone.
 

CraigT78

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You had to purchase a "membership" which allowed you to drink in the "private" , public establishment.
And that whole "private membership" thing is long gone.
Not true - just last night I had to sign a membership agreement to have a beer in the local dive bar. It was free, but still had to have it. They swipe your drivers license and you have to sign the agreement. It's good for 7 days - repeat. Don't know why, but both bars on the street do this.
 

David O

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Not true - just last night I had to sign a membership agreement to have a beer in the local dive bar. It was free, but still had to have it. They swipe your drivers license and you have to sign the agreement. It's good for 7 days - repeat. Don't know why, but both bars on the street do this.
Wow I thought all of the dry counties were gone
 

dkersey

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Not true - just last night I had to sign a membership agreement to have a beer in the local dive bar. It was free, but still had to have it. They swipe your drivers license and you have to sign the agreement. It's good for 7 days - repeat. Don't know why, but both bars on the street do this.
Wow, really? I haven't been hit with that in over 10 years. What county/city was it?
 

dkersey

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Latest: There was a 2nd card room that had recently opened up in Plano. It had limited days/hours. When the 1st one in Plano announced it would shut down temporarily upon receiving a Cease and Desist order, this 2nd one immediately expanded its days/hours. It has now received a Cease and Desist order. It has decided to shut down as well (temporarily), but this one is starting a social campaign to fight it. I also see on Poker Atlas, that a 3rd is planning to open up soon, again in Plano. I don't know why they all have to open up in Plano. Yes, its affluent and central, but clearly they are not welcome in Plano.
 

CraigT78

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Latest: There was a 2nd card room that had recently opened up in Plano. It had limited days/hours. When the 1st one in Plano announced it would shut down temporarily upon receiving a Cease and Desist order, this 2nd one immediately expanded its days/hours. It has now received a Cease and Desist order. It has decided to shut down as well (temporarily), but this one is starting a social campaign to fight it. I also see on Poker Atlas, that a 3rd is planning to open up soon, again in Plano. I don't know why they all have to open up in Plano. Yes, its affluent and central, but clearly they are not welcome in Plano.
What's the name of the second one?
 

bsdunbar1

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Not true - just last night I had to sign a membership agreement to have a beer in the local dive bar. It was free, but still had to have it. They swipe your drivers license and you have to sign the agreement. It's good for 7 days - repeat. Don't know why, but both bars on the street do this.
This is just crazy from someone who has never had to deal with anything except go to the store/bar and buy what you want. Worst I can remember growing up is grocery stores couldn't sell liquor til after Noon on Sunday's. And even that has been gone for a very long time.
 

dkersey

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Here is a link about another poker room opening around the Houston area - https://www.cardplayer.com/cardplayer-poker-magazines/66392-freerolls-poker-clubs-31-20/articles/23478-freerolls-poker-club-to-raise-stakes-for-game-in-texas

This one thinks it is more legal than the others because it charges an hourly "being in the room" fee where the others charge an hourly "sitting at the poker table" fee. They believe they have truly extracated it from being part of the rake. Again, I can argue either side of the equation.

The more interesting thing here is - All the rooms in the DFW have been shut down by the PoPo for over a year now. However the rooms in Austin, San Antonio, and Houston have not been shut down. The proximity of the rooms in DFW to the OK casinos and LA casinos have to be a contributing factor.
 

DoubleEagle

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There were several rooms in Wichita, KS that tried this including one here in my hometown. All were using the “chair rental” argument. They all were shut down.
 

Darson

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There's one not too far from where I work - Babaloo Social Club. I saw Gene at ABC made their chips. But they've been closed since August, I guess they ran afoul of the popo. I only discovered it existed after it was closed!
 

Annorax

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Has anyone here been to the rooms in San Antonio? I'm considering playing there around Christmas.
 

Meddler2

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There are at least 2 more new poker rooms in Austin now. All w same membership or hourly table fee. So strange how different municipalities are responding to these across the state.
 

CraigT78

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I'm suprised Plano or one of the other burbs outside Dallas county doesn't offer it.
One got raided by SWAT and the rest got notices they would do the same. Plano, Dallas, Richardson, and Arlington all had one, briefly.
 

David O

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Yes, You will see that DFW and Houston have a much different view upon the card rooms. I believe it comes from having casino so close to those cities that the casinos are lobbying heavily against them
 
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