Apr 1, 2022 - News

Texas Card House can stay open — for now

A strip mall poker room
The Texas Card House on Harry Hines. Photo: Brandon Donner for Axios

Months after Texas Card House had its certificate of occupancy revoked by the city, the business won its appeal with the Board of Adjustment, meaning the poker room can continue to operate.

Why it matters: City attorneys alleged Texas Card House’s business model violated the state constitution’s prohibition on gambling, which could have set a precedent that would end the booming Texas poker scene not only in Dallas, but in Austin and Houston, too.

Driving the news: In a 5-0 ruling, the Board of Adjustment determined that Texas Card House’s business is legal.

  • “It seems like the opinion was changed either by political reasons or possibly public backlash," Kathleen Frankford, a board member, said during the meeting. “There was never a good case made from the city.”

Background: Texas Card House CEO Ryan Crow tells Axios he worked with city leaders and law enforcement officials for years to make sure every part of their business was legal.

  • The Dallas location gets an average of 650 players a day, with most playing between four and five hours at a time.
  • After TCH and several other card rooms began operation, Councilmember Cara Mendelsohn and city senior assistant attorney Gary Powell took aim at poker.

Details: Texas Card House doesn’t take a "rake" — a portion of each pot — like casinos. Instead, customers pay $13 per hour to play there. Those rules have thus far allowed the card room to operate within state laws that outlaw gambling.

Zoom out: Card rooms in Texas have become especially popular in the poker world, attracting the most popular poker vloggers on YouTube and card players from around the globe. TCH often live streams big games.

  • Texas poker players have earned a reputation for betting wildly. It’s not uncommon to see thousands of dollars bet on a single hand.

The big picture: Before these legal card rooms opened, North Texas poker players had to travel to Oklahoma casinos or play in illicit underground games that were prone to robbery and cheating.

What they’re saying: “It’s been a whirlwind,” Crow tells Axios. “When this all came down the pipe, it was just mind-blowing.”

  • Crow added: “My hunch right now is that we’re going to be OK in Dallas. The BOA meeting isn’t the end-all-be-all, but I think it gives us some ammunition.”

What’s next: The city has 10 days to appeal the Board of Adjustment ruling. That time limit ends early next week.

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