Popular Dallas poker club Texas Card House is asking for a stay of execution. Last month, a Dallas County Court judge upheld city officials’ decision to revoke the club’s license of occupancy, which would force it to close.
Last week, attorneys for Texas Card House asked District Judge Eric Moye to block the city from enforcing that order, pending the resolution of an appeal, court records show. They warned the sudden closure of the of the club would result in the loss of 235 jobs.
Gambling is banned in Texas under Chapter 47 of its penal code, unless explicitly authorized by the legislature. But poker rooms argue they operate under a loophole because they are private clubs.
Case Bound for Supreme Court
Ultimately, the case is on a collision course with the Texas Supreme Court, which will decide the legality of “private” poker rooms in the Lone Star State, as Moye noted in his ruling last month. But that could take years.
Meanwhile, Texas Card House CEO Ryan Crow is sweating the $2 million invested into the venture, after he was assured by the city his plans were legit.
Crow entered into a lease for the site in December 2019 and received city-issued certification in October 2020. He told CBS earlier this year he spent more than two years engaged in meetings with city officials to find an approved location.
But in January 2022, Crow suddenly received notice that city officials had changed their mind. He was informed he was “keeping a gambling place” and would have to close. The club’s permit was revoked.
Chapter 47 of the Texas Penal Code states: “It is a defense to prosecution [for gambling]” if “the actor engaged in gambling [is] 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 Texas Card House, and other poker rooms like it in the state, argue they are private clubs. They say poker is a game of skill, as opposed to a pure gambling game, and they refrain from acting as “the house” because they don’t take a rake. Instead, they charge customers by the hour to be at the venue.
Detractors say they profit from gambling whether they take a rake or not, and they are not private places because they attract hundreds of players per day. They say the “private” carveout was intended for private home games.
In March, the Dallas Board of Adjustment determined the club wasn’t doing anything it had not been authorized to do last year when the city gave it permission to operate.
But last month Moye wrote in his ruling the board had “abused its discretion and made an illegal decision” when it overturned the city’s revocation its certificate of occupancy.
A court hearing on whether to suspend city enforcement of Moye’s ruling is scheduled for Nov. 28.
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