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Dallas Private Poker Club Sparks REVOLT from Neighbors

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If you were to take a look at the official laws of Texas, it would be clear to see that gambling is an illegal activity. However, poker rooms seem to have managed to circumvent the rules, providing their services within the state in various locations. We're not talking about online poker sites right now but rather brick-and-mortar poker rooms. Several of them exist in North Texas, and more are expected to open their doors in due course.

The Texas Card House based in Austin is just one of those providing its services to residents of The Lone Star State. And now it looks like another one will be entering the scene, operating as a members-only club in North Dallas. The Champions Club, which will be providing dining and entertainment within, is taking over the space that previously used to be known as the Three Forks steakhouse.

However, people living nearby aren’t happy about the addition of a gambling establishment so close to their residences. Neighbors of the soon-to-be establishment took to the streets in protest and clashed with poker players over The Champions Club, claiming that it will be another illegal operation in the city.

Dallas Poker Club Draws Protests

Arrival of a New Poker Club in a State Where It is Arguably Illegal

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The Champions Club made the announcement about its upcoming arrival as part of a press release on Wednesday, July 28. According to the press release, “upscale dining and entertainment” will be on hand at The Champions Club, with events like karaoke nights and magic shows also being hosted there. Yet, it was the announcement of the members-only poker games that caused the biggest disruption.

Local news outlets had already been on top of the story prior to this announcement, thanks to the controversy surrounding Champion's takeover of the aforementioned establishment. Neighbors were complaining over the fact that gambling, for the most part, is illegal in the state of Texas. This hasn’t stopped businesses like the Texas Card House previously spoken of and another one in the Sam Moon Shopping Center in Dallas from operating around-the-clock.

The establishments provide professional dealers on a 24/7 basis, and players get to wager poker chips purchased with real money. The establishment in the shopping center was opened in November last year and, according to members, it is a busy place for gamblers.

That establishment was visited by Jack Aiello – a partner of the Next Gen Poker brand, launched by two Southern Methodist University seniors – and others from his group when it first opened. He spoke of the poker room providing a great location not only for business opportunities, but for meeting new people as well.

Texas Cardroom Legality

So how have these poker rooms, and others hosted in Houston, Edinburg, Austin, and other locales around Texas been able to set up shop where gambling is considered illegal?

According to the COO of the Texas Card House, Ryan Crow, there are three key features that make his clubs legal within The Lone Star State. Well, actually, permission was granted by the Dallas City Council for the launch in the Sam Moon Shopping Center. A lengthy battle was undertaken beforehand between the card club and politicians within Dallas though.

Fortunately for the Texas Card House (and other poker service operators), a loophole has been exploited in the law to allow them to operate legally. A card room, which is what the poker rooms operate as in Texas, must meet three specific rules to comply with state law. These are:

  • Games should occur in private places
  • There can be no economic benefit from the games, aside from the winnings themselves
  • All players have to have an equal opportunity to win when participating

The first and third of those rules are quite easy to understand. Fair games, check. Games occurring in private locations, check. What exactly is the second rule all about, though? Well, it is open to multiple interpretations. Chapter 47 of the Texas Penal Code states that no person who is participating in a game of poker is able to receive any sort of economic benefit from such other than personal winnings. Whether or not membership fees, sales of food and beverage, and other incidental revenue counts as being derived from gambling activity is not a matter of settled law.

Announcement of Champions Club Sparks Controversy with Residents

People Protesting

The announcement of the new establishment, which is set to hold poker games in a private members-only format to comply with legislation, wasn’t greeted with affection by the residents of Dallas.

NBC 5 reported that members of the Bent Tree North Homeowners Association took to protesting outside the new establishment. At the same time, a petition gained over 1,000 signatures, all of whom are opposed to the Champions Club starting up and operating 24 hours a day. It was the announcement of the plans to host a $2 million poker tournament later on in 2021 that served to add more heat to the fire. This led to the Champions Club opting to postpone the tournament.

Over a dozen residents who live within close vicinity to the former steakhouse picketed with signs recently to demonstrate their anger. Speaking on behalf of the Bent Tree North Homeowners Association, president Jeremy Camp had the following to say:

The opposition has been across the board. We have over a thousand signatures gathered to a petition in just a four-day span.

The General Manager of The Champions Club, Brian Dragovich, was the one who took the decision to postpone the $2 million tournament indefinitely. He spoke of poker just being one of several entertainment options on hand at the club, pointing out food and drinks will be the primary service offered. Unfortunately, the gambling aspect is what neighbors have focused on as a target of their rage.

As a result of the protests, Dragovich stated that the 24-hour service provided by the establishment is being reconsidered. He went on to mention that the vacant building where The Champions Club aims to open was a security threat to the neighborhood prior to the renovations beginning. He is happy to participate in the security arrangements of the Home Owners Association.

It isn’t just the Bent Tree neighbors who stand in stark opposition to the launch of the poker room, though. Matt Bach leads the North Dallas Alliance, which stands as a representative of 60 separate homeowners’ associations. He went on to state:

Sure they’ve found a loophole and it was working. And there’s some operating. And there’s lot of money behind these guys that want to come in, too. This is kind of the beginning if it goes unchecked.

Poker Room Claims It Will Operate Under Texas Law

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Despite the protestations of the neighbors, plans are still in place for the renovations to go ahead and the poker room to operate within once they are complete. Even though it is likely that the 24/7 operation plan will not go ahead, managing partner Roy Choi did issue a statement regarding the protests that had taken place.

He said that misinformation had been spread about the Champions Club in the community. “We are not the underground poker clubs you hear about in the news and will operate under Texas law,” he stated. Choi went on to reinforce the idea that the establishment will have a heavy focus on the dining experience and other special events. “In fact, we do not condone underground poker games and illegal activities”, he finished off with.

The Champions Club is yet to finalize its fees for those who wish to become members and participate in everything it has to offer. However, they are expected to be around $150 for a monthly membership and $1,200 for yearly one. An early fall opening date is expected.

Meanwhile, the city of Dallas has potential plans in place to change its rules. This means that any future poker rooms may need to possess a special permit to officially operate within the city. That’s not something that could be introduced right away though.

Commenting on the decision of The Champions Club to open up in the Bent Tree area, the CEO of Texas Card House Ryan Crow said that he was quite surprised at the business choosing that location. He knows that people in the vicinity do not want poker rooms operating there, which is why he didn’t take the Texas Card House to that specific area.

Playing Poker in Texas is Still Possible Online

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Poker rooms could potentially be popping up in various other Texas locations. Indeed, there's already a decent selection of such clubs across the state. Here are our reviews of several of them:

However, if you’re not a fan of visiting such an establishment to enjoy the card game, or you simply want alternative options, the online scene is always active. You can view our guide to playing poker online within the State of Texas to find the best internet poker room for your preferences.

If you reside elsewhere in the United States, then our informative page devoted to USA online poker for guidance pertaining to the country as a whole.

We have also evaluated several terrestrial cardrooms in the United States, and you can read what we have to say about them by checking out our reviews: