In March, Texas Card House Dallas won a crucial appeal with the city’s Board of Adjustment after the poker room’s Certificate of Occupancy had been revoked. But six months later and CEO Ryan Crow and his staff are still fighting a legal battle that could soon put poker clubs across the Lone Star State on notice.
On Wednesday, a summary judgment in a lawsuit involving two opposing groups of city officials was scheduled to be disclosed but the judge instead determined the case will go to trial. Crow told PokerNews the trial date hasn’t set, but expects it “will take place within a few weeks and I should know more in a couple of days.”
Only media and lawyers will be permitted to attend, meaning there won’t be a jury and it will be up to the judge to rule on the outcome in the case. Crow said he is hopeful local Dallas media will show up to cover the trial.
One way or another, Crow anticipates, this case will eventually end up in the Texas Supreme Court. If the city’s top building inspection official, David Session, wins a lawsuit he’s filed against the Dallas board of adjustment, the card room owner will be ready for an appeal. Should the reverse occur, and Crow has confidence that it will, he believes the opposition will continue its fight up the legal chain, “without question.”
How the Poker Room Ended Up in a Legal Fight
In the state of Texas, gambling is illegal, but there is a loophole in Texas Penal Code 47.04, which permits poker clubs to operate so long as there is no “economic benefit other than personal winnings” received from the games.
One way to ensure a poker business in the Lone Star State is operating illegally is to take rake out of cash game pots. Thus, rooms across the state operate as social clubs and make their money by charging membership and seat fees instead of collecting rake. Still, there are lawmakers in Texas who argue that card rooms such as Texas Card House, which operates four poker clubs across the state, are receiving an “economic benefit” even if rake isn’t part of the business model.
That is precisely why some politicians, not just in Dallas, have continually fought to stop the poker rooms. At TCH Dallas, the city’s building officials approved Crow’s social poker club business model in 2020, and he’s adhered to that business plan ever since. The following summer, however, some residents opposed the opening of another card room in Dallas, which then caused city officials to revisit their opinion on the legality of poker in Texas altogether.
In January 2022, Crow’s poker club was slapped with a Certificate of Occupancy revocation. He kept the room in operation while filing an appeal, which he won in March. But that wasn’t the end of his legal battle against the city as Session then brought forth a lawsuit against the board of adjustment.
“Defendant Board of Adjustment’s decision was illegal and constituted an abuse of discretion because the Board of Adjustment acted arbitrarily, unreasonably, and without reference to guiding principles,” the lawsuit stated.
Texas poker player Kim Stone shared a video of the March vote (seen below), which ended up 5-0 in Texas Card House’s favor.
Impact on All Texas Poker Rooms
Poker has been booming in Texas the past few years, and rooms all across the state are popping up seemingly every month. Even poker pros such as Doug Polk and vloggers Andrew Neeme and Brad Owen have gotten in on the business. The trio owns The Lodge Card Club near Austin, the biggest room in the state.
Despite the tax revenue the state is collecting from the dozens of poker clubs across Texas, there are those in power who want them gone. The pending lawsuit against Texas Card House Dallas could eventually have a negative effect on poker in Texas altogether, Crow acknowledges.
If the city of Dallas were to take this case all the way up to the Texas Supreme Court and win there, it would set a legal precedent on poker in Texas. At present, the law is open to interpretation but an unfavorable ruling against Texas Card House would make poker illegal in Texas, as Crow explained, and that could mean rooms all across the state would eventually be shut down.
That said, the poker room owner is confident in the case his lawyers have presented and believes he’ll come out on the right side of this ruling when it’s all said and done.