Dallas could spend $600,000 in legal fees to oppose and defend poker businesses

Dallas’ chief building inspector is suing the city’s Board of Adjustment over poker houses, and the cost of the two lawsuits will be borne by taxpayers.

The city of Dallas is at a crossroads over whether to spend $600,000 on legal fees to combat illegal poker operations.

In a meeting scheduled for next month, the City Council will decide whether to increase funding for lawsuits seeking to shut down two poker businesses, Texas Card House and Shuffle 214.

The funds will be used for two purposes: first, to appeal the decision of Dallas Chief Building Official Andrew Espinoza to revoke the businesses’ certificates of occupancy, and second, to defend the decision of the Board of Adjustment to allow the poker clubs to remain open.

Lawsuits have been filed against the city’s Board of Adjustment and the two poker establishments it helped reinstate their certificates of occupancy. Neither Texas Card House nor Shuffle 214 are represented by the same legal team.

Due to a lack of clarity in Texas’ anti-gambling statutes, city officials say they gave the green light for poker rooms to open in Dallas beginning in 2020. The following year, however, the city changed its mind about poker establishments after reevaluating the law. It now considers the three poker establishments currently operating in Dallas to be illegal, and it has revoked the certificates of occupancy it had previously issued to these businesses.

At the beginning of this year, the owners of Texas Card House and Shuffle 214 challenged the revocation before the city’s Board of Adjustment, which reviews appeals of decisions made under the city’s development code. Businesses were supported by a board panel that ruled twice that the companies had done nothing wrong to warrant the revocation of their certifications, which they had obtained lawfully.

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West remarked, “That’s A Lot Of Money For The Taxpayers

A Dallas County Circuit Court judge, Eric Moyé, ruled in favour of the city in October, saying the Board of Adjustment “abused its discretion and made an illegal decision” by overturning the city’s revocation of Texas Card House’s certificate of occupancy. This discussion follows this ruling.

On November 28th, Texas Card House’s legal team formally appealed Moyé’s decision by filing a notice with the Court of Appeals for the Fifth District. At Moyé’s direction, Texas Card House was given permission to stay open while the case was being appealed.

West remarked, That's A Lot Of Money For The Taxpayers

Two other businesses, Shuffle 214 and Poker House of Dallas are also active. The trial for the lawsuit involving Shuffle 214 is set to begin in the summer of 2018.

In November, city officials filed a lawsuit against Poker House of Dallas, claiming the business was operating illegally because it had not registered as a poker establishment with the city. The lawsuit claims that in 2017 when the business received its most recent certificate of occupancy, it was operating as the strip club La Zona Rosa Cabaret.

In the meantime, a bill has been introduced to legalise gambling in Texas and seal a loophole in the state’s gambling ban that has been exploited by poker businesses.

Betting money or anything of value on a game of cards, dice, balls, or other devices is illegal in Texas. However, if the games are played in a private setting, all players have an equal chance of winning except for the advantage of individual skill or luck, and no one receives any economic benefit other than personal winnings, then it is legal.

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Poker proponents contend that their game is not directly gambling because it is based on players’ abilities. By collecting membership or access fees from customers rather than taking a cut of the pot from the games themselves, poker establishments across the state have been granted legal status and are able to operate freely. Membership dues, sales of food and drink, and tips are the primary sources of revenue for these businesses and their staff.

Businesses Can Refuse Service To Anyone They Deem To Be Underage, And There Are Age Restrictions On Their Products And Services

Slaybaugh, however, has stated that she disagrees with the poker industry’s “cut and dry” defence of the economic benefits it provides.

She questioned how they could make a profit off the games if there was no tangible economic gain. “You’re not taking a rake of the winnings, but it’s obvious that the companies make money off of the games that take place in their venues,” he said.

Businesses Can Refuse Service To Anyone They Deem To Be Underage, And There Are Age Restrictions On Their Products And Services

According to the records, Judge Moyé came to the same conclusion, stating that there are economic benefits beyond the personal winnings of individual players.

In December, Moyé wrote that he didn’t think Texas Card House had a good case against the state’s gambling ban because employees there get tips.

Moyé argued that “TCH cannot establish the affirmative defence to prosecution for keeping a gambling place” because “TCH and its owners/partners receive an economic benefit from tips in that they only have to pay dealers minimum wage for tipping and then the rest of the dealer income comes from tips,” the company was liable for criminal charges for operating a gambling establishment.

The judge added that he did not consider Texas Card House to be a private place under state law because anyone or a large group of people can play the games there at any given time.

Moyé argued that “an initial mistake by an agent of the city, such as a city attorney’s incorrect statement regarding the legality of anticipated conduct or the granting of a conditional [specific use permit] for another location,” did not provide sufficient grounds to prevent the city from revoking the C.O. as required by the city code.

Last Words

Earlier this year, the owners of Texas Card House and Shuffle 214 challenged the revocation before the city’s Board of Adjustment, which reviews appeals of decisions made under the city’s development code. In two separate decisions, a board panel sided with the companies, finding that they had done nothing wrong to warrant the revocation of their certifications, which they had obtained lawfully.

According to city records, Dallas initially set aside $73,000 to spend on both lawsuits but has since increased that number to $200,000. In defence of Espinoza, as of December, the city had paid out only just over $27,000.

The latest proposed increase in legal fees was scheduled to go to a vote on December 14. Councilman and lawyer Chad West, however, proposed postponing the vote until more information about the deals was made available. The cost of $300,000 for both cases to answer what he called a “relatively simple legal question” made him pause, he said.

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  • Karan Sirari

    I am an author and a public speaker. I was born in India and have travelled to many different countries. I have a masters in public communication from California University and I love to write about famous peoples from different industries.

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