Poker Lounge Fight Could Cost Taxpayers $600K


A person playing poker and looking at cards | Image by Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

The Dallas City Council will vote next month on whether to spend $600,000 of taxpayer money in a legal battle against poker lounges.

The vote is to determine whether to increase the City’s expenditures fighting two prominent poker lounges in the area: Texas Card House and Shuffle 214.

Initially, the council was scheduled to vote on December 14, but Councilmember Chad West requested the vote be delayed in order to allow more time to consider the information.

“That’s a lot of money for the taxpayers,” West said, explaining why he wished the council to hesitate.

The cost of fighting the poker clubs was originally supposed to be $73,000. The City already paid close to $27,000 in December to defend the decision made by Andrew Espinoza, chief building official for Dallas.

City officials said the two poker lounges, which were initially determined to be operating legally, were in violation of their certificate of occupancy, thanks to Espinoza’s adjusted determination.

The decision to revoke the clubs’ licenses would force them to close.

However, in November, Texas Card House asked for a “stay of execution” pending the resolution of its appeal. It said that closing the club without warning would result in the loss of 235 jobs.

Texas Card House’s request was granted, and the poker clubs were allowed to resume operations until a final decision on the appeal could be made, as reported previously by The Dallas Express.

Gambling is banned in Texas, but institutions like these operate in a legal grey area because they are private clubs and because poker’s element of skill differentiates it from games of pure luck.

In addition, these clubs do not take in a “rake” but charge players by the hour. A rake is a commission taken by a club operating a poker game. Rakes normally range between 2.5% and 10% of the pot in each poker hand, up to a predetermined maximum amount.

However, it has been reported that not all poker lounges in Texas have followed these rules.

In October, police raided a poker lounge in Tarrant County and seized more than $200,000, as previously reported by The Dallas Express. Undercover police officers had discovered the poker lounge was allegedly charging illegal fees to the players.

The owner of the Watauga Social Club was arrested on charges including participating in organized criminal activity, keeping a gambling place, and promoting illegal gambling. Prior allegations also claimed the lounge took in a rake as high as 20%.

The alleged criminal enterprise in nearby Tarrant County is indicative of a larger problem in DFW — and particularly in Dallas — that The Dallas Express has reported on extensively. City council and other political authorities continue to prioritize other issues heading into the new year, largely neglecting law enforcement and public safety.

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17 days ago

The Watauga Social Club should have given all LE card players free memberships and any other free perks, alcohol, food, and or cash paid security positions. I am certain that during said raid there were some membership records seized and destroyed as the non-members counted the $200,000 obtained during the Police sponsored robbery.