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Texas Legislator Target ‘Private’ Poker Clubs

A Texas lawmaker is pushing forward legislation that would put an end to a growing segment of “private” poker clubs, that are not exactly private.

Under current Texas law, anyone can host a perfectly legal poker so long as the game takes place in a private establishment, there is a level playing field, and the house doesn’t take a cut of the action. The key word in the current law is “establishment” and that’s what Wu is looking to change.

Wu is looking to change the word “residence” in the law to “dwelling” to cut off a growing number of for-profit Texas poker clubs that have slipped through this massive legal loophole. These clubs operate openly as businesses charge membership fees, advertise in local publications and profit from food and beverage sales.

Texas poker clubs are pretty clearly not the private games previous lawmakers envisioned and that’s why Wu’s legislation looks to replace the words “place” and “establishment” with “residence” and “dwelling”, in an effort to remove the business element while protecting truly private games. The new bill clarifies the issue with the phrase, “It is a defense to prosecution under this section that: (1) the actor engage in gambling in a private residence.”

If passed into law, Wu’s bill would shut down a growing segment of “private” poker clubs that currently employ more than 200 people and generate huge revenues in the legal loophole.

Wu’s bill, which will likely be introduced when the Texas legislature convenes in January will have some competition from lawmakers looking to protect poker clubs, so nothing is guaranteed. If passed into law, Wu’s bill would certainly face legal challenges from poker club operators.