Ambiguous Texas Gambling Laws Put Poker Club Owners on Edge

Gambling in Texas is illegal except for parimutuel betting on greyhound and horse racing, charitable bingo, raffles lottery, pull-tabs and three tribal casinos. While it is evident that gambling is illegal, the nature of the betting laws lies in a grey area. This has allowed poker club owners to build membership-only facilities to offer poker games.

These facilities do not charge rakes, which is prohibited by law. Instead, they charge a membership fee, allowing players to join the clubs and enjoy poker. However, this does not mean the law enforcers and poker club owners do not rub shoulders.

The gambling law is unclear about poker clubs. Yet, this does not stop law enforcement groups from taking government officials’ cues and exercising them.

Every city and municipality interprets the law differently and enforces it as they understand it. This confusion has led to the latest raid in a poker club in Fort Worth, Dallas, leaving club owners on edge.

Fort Worth Poker Club Raid

On October 10 2022, Chad Holloway posted on Twitter confirming the raid at the Watauga Social Lounge. It is barely a year since the club launched.

The club ran as usual on October 9, only that it was hosting 54 players playing the final day of the Fall Classic Poker Tournament. The event had several starting days, a $420 buy-in, and a $100,000 guarantee.

With 369 buy-ins, the prize pool was at $32,840, with the winner taking the championship that day. Something was different. The club asked the security guards to report to work at 1 pm instead of 6 pm like it previously did.

Meanwhile, Judge George Gallagher and law enforcement had a different plan. The judge had already signed a warranty two days before October 9.

The warrant allowed the raid on the club. Law enforcement would collect video poker machines, illegal gambling machines, roulette wheels, records, receipts, papers, money, and ATMs.

The Game Room Enforcement Unit from the Tarrant County Sheriff Office, consisting of masked police, raided the poker club carrying chips, cash, tables, chairs, playing deck and everything they could find. Witnesses said the police pulled their truck next to the club to load everything.

Charges and Fines

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was not left behind. The entity accompanied police to the club.
The DEA cited 49 gaming violations to players and issued fines, with some players paying as high as $411 each. The entity also arrested ten employees and management staff.

The arrested posted bond after seeing a judge on Tuesday. The arrested were charged with keeping a gambling facility, promoting gambling, and participating in organized criminal activity.

These charges are not yet official. Sharen Wilson, the District Attorney, is yet to decide whether to make the charges official. She has several months to come to decide.

Watauga Social Lounge announced through Facebook that they lost $200,000 through the raid and all equipment. The club owner has asked every player that got a citation to reach back. Meanwhile, this has left every club owner wondering whether they are next, mainly because this is not the first raid in the state.

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