The goal of reforming an existing gaming law that has been the subject of controversy. If passed, it would provide essential protection for rooms.
The state of Texas has some of the strictest gambling laws in the United States. As such, the dozens of poker rooms in that nation’s second most populous state have faced scrutiny from local politicians and even legal action.
Texas cardrooms are famous for their large number of players.
Card rooms in Texas operate differently than most places because gambling is illegal in the state. Instead of collecting rake, they charge membership and seating fees to access the club. But some lawmakers still believe that business model is against the law.
Four prominent poker rooms in the state, The Lodge Card Club near Austin, Texas Card House (five locations), Champions Club in Houston and San Antonio Card House, are backing a bill that would change the wording of Texas gaming law, removing any doubt about the legality of poker clubs.
The main objection from certain politicians who oppose the poker club model is that they often focus on two parts of the state’s criminal code. One area of debate is that the law which clearly states that gambling must occur in a “private place.” The other concerns the “economic benefit” received from gambling, which can only be from “personal gain.”
Currently, there is a debate as to whether “private place” includes a membership-based club and whether facilitating gaming constitutes receiving “economic benefit” from gaming, even if no rake is taken.
The debate could soon come to an end if the Texans For Hold’em group, organized by the four card rooms mentioned above, is successful. HB 2345, a partisan bill sponsored by Rep. Ryan Guillen , was introduced on Feb. 15 and referred to the Licensing and Administrative Procedures committee on March 9.
The Texas House companion bill to HB 2345, SB 1681, was introduced on March 6 by Rep. Jose Menendez . In that potentially game-changing pro-poker legislation for venues statewide, it would amend the definition of “private place” and “economic benefit” to clear up any confusion about the legality of poker.
In Chapter 47 of the Texas Penal Code, SB 1681 would add subdivision 2-a, which, if passed, would read: “‘Economic benefit’ means direct winnings from a game of skill or chance. The term does not include a benefit received before the commencement of a game or after the payment of direct winnings from the game.
The bill would not legalize gambling in Texas, but it would help prevent local authorities from prosecuting poker rooms as long as they operate within the law. Although a hearing date has not yet been set, if passed, it would go into effect on September 1, 2023.