Dallas poker rooms have won a small battle against the city in their plight to stay in business, D Magazine reports.
On Tuesday, Senior Assistant Dallas Attorney Gary Powell failed to convince a hearing of the city’s Board of Adjustment that the Texas Card House was doing anything that it had not been authorized to do when the city gave it permission to operate last year.
The board is a City Council body that rules on development-related regulations, including zoning and subdivision regulation.
In January, the card room’s owner Ryan Crow told local CBS affiliate KTVT he had received notice from the city that he was “keeping a gambling place” and would have to close. This, despite attending numerous meetings with city officials throughout 2020 to ensure his business model was compliant with local regulations.
City Councilman Omar Narvaez, who supports the card room, said then he believed Dallas City Attorney Chris Caso had simply “decided to change the idea of what he believes constitutes card rules according to the law.”
The Texas Card House, and poker rooms like it in the state, operate via a loophole in Chapter 47 of the Texas Penal Code, which states: “it is a defense to prosecution” if “the actor engaged in gambling in a private place; no person received any economic benefit other than personal winnings; [and] except for the advantage of skill or luck, the risks of losing and the chances of winning were the same for all.”
The poker rooms argue they are private clubs that refrain from acting as “the house” because they don’t take a rake. Instead, they typically charge customers by the hour to be at the venue.
Powell argued that the carveout was intended for private games in private homes and that the Texas Card House was not a private place because it was attracting over 600 people a day.
‘Rule of Law’
“A society can’t exist and be organized unless you honor and respect the rule of law. That’s what this case is about,” he said, as reported by D Magazine. “And if the board rules the way I think the board should rule, it will be following the rule of law.”
The Board of Adjustment was unmoved.
“The land use is the same, and the initial approval was for commercial amusement inside for a fee,” said board chairman Dave Neumann. “Nothing materially has changed.”
This is a small victory for Dallas’ modest smattering of poker rooms because, ultimately, the matter will be decided in court of law, which would impact card clubs across the state. But for the time being, the card rooms remain open for business.
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