A Legal Loophole is Putting Texas Back Into Hold’em1 year ago
Since 1937, Texas has outlawed cardrooms. You can go down the track to wager your shekels on horse or hound, but sit down at a raked table and the rozzers are within their rights to march in, put you in bracelets, and confiscate the pot as evidence.
Unfortunately for those who want to keep poker in the shadows (or just around the kitchen table) the law is rather poorly written. A poker game only becomes illegal if alcohol is sold on the premises, if chips are used to tip the dealers, or if a rake is taken. The last is usually the most difficult for a poker room to get around, after all a rake is the traditional way to pay for dealers, the heating and the owner’s mortgage.
Most places that outlaw poker are a bit more rigorous in their wording, because ‘rake’ is specifically to do with taking a percentage of the pot. It turns out, the law in Texas might not exclude table fees. Or at least, that was the reading of Michael Eakman who opened Mint Poker Club in Houston three months ago.
Seat Rental and Membership Fees
At another Houston car club, the Post Oak which opened just this month, you can either pay on the door for $15/day entry, or get an annual membership for $150. On top of this cash there is an hourly seat rental for cash games and a one time rental fee for tournaments.
Tim Von Kennel, a lawyer who lobbies for the Texas Association of Social Card Clubs did point out that whether this ‘letter of the law’ argument is watertight is yet to be tested:
“The Legislature hasn’t really seen it yet because it hasn’t really existed. As they pop up, I want to make sure the ledge is aware of them. What I would really like to do is get these guys to become licensed with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, and that way they’re absolutely certain they’re on the right side of the law.”
A Growing Industry
The Post Oak and Mint are not alone in this, other rooms have opened in Dallas, San Antonio and Austin and so far there’s been no push back from the fuzz. Yet.
If there is pushback it could trigger a major review of the law in Texas. Awareness of the game is at an all time high in Texas with plenty of people pushing back against the hypocrisy of running state lotteries while banning a game of skill with a relatively low rake.
An appeal on a ruling that found against these clubs could provide impetus to get the US one state closer to fully legalizing its national pastime.
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