Feb 14, 2023 - News

Dallas poker rooms are here to stay thanks to council workaround

A strip mall card room

This strip mall poker room attracts hundreds of players every day. Photo: Brandon Donner for Axios

Poker rooms in Dallas can stay open, thanks to a workaround approved by City Council.

The latest: Dallas City Council voted unanimously to direct city staff to draft a new land-use category so card rooms can continue to operate, according to PlayTexas, a news site that covers gambling in the state.

  • Card rooms applying for the new category will likely need to abide by provisions including staying a yet-to-be-determined distance from schools.
  • The businesses also might need to add other services like arcade games or shuffleboard to offset potential income restrictions, but that could create new challenges.

Flashback: After approving permits to open poker rooms in 2020, Dallas tried to shutter them in late 2021. In 2022, the Texas Card House on Harry Hines won its appeal with the Board of Adjustment, allowing the poker room to continue operating.

  • The city has spent $550,000 in attorney fees attempting to shut down these rooms, Councilmember Chad West said during a January council meeting.

Details: While the state constitution prohibits gambling, Texas Card House and other card rooms don't take a "rake" — a portion of each pot — like casinos. Players pay $13 per hour.

State of play: 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 livestreams big games.

  • It's not uncommon to see Texas poker players bet thousands of dollars on a single hand.
  • The Dallas location of Texas Card House provided more than $1.1 million in property and sales tax revenue in 2022, per PlayTexas.

Zoom out: More than 50 card rooms operate in Texas, per PlayTexas. But Dallas is the only city that has tried to crack down on them.

What they're saying: "This is Dallas," West, who's leading the effort to resolve the issues, told the gambling news site. "We're supposed to be a city that is pro-business."

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