HOUSTON – Lawsuits were filed Wednesday against the owners of two Houston poker rooms that were raided by authorities the same day.
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan said the lawsuits were filed against the owners of the Post Oak Poker Club on West Loop South and the Prime Social Club on Westheimer Road, accusing them of engaging in organized criminal activity, money laundering and gambling promotion.
Authorities said they arrested nine people during raids at both locations Wednesday.
Ryan said that Houston police officers conducted undercover operations, posing as customers, at each establishment. The officers were asked to pay a membership fee, a door fee and a fee to play at a poker table.
“HPD officers bought poker chips to bet on a poker game and at the end of the operation, the officers were able to turn in their chips and collect cash winnings from employees at the clubs,” Ryan said in a written statement about the lawsuits.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said the bank accounts of both businesses were frozen. Ryan said that about $4 million was deposited into the account for the Post Oak Poker Club between Aug. 2, 2017, and Sept. 27, 2018. More than $6 million was deposited into the Prime Social Club’s account between Oct. 31, 2017, and Jan. 31, Ryan said.
Ryan said the lawsuits also accuse the owners of running establishments that are nuisances to the surrounding neighborhoods.
“HPD was called to Prime Social Club a number of times in 2018 for incidents involving theft and terroristic threats related to the activity taking place inside the business,” Ryan said in his statement.
Each lawsuit seeks both a temporary and a permanent injunction to shut down the businesses, Ryan said.
Both Ogg and Ryan called these poker rooms illegal, but the owners of the businesses maintain they are not because the businesses make no money from any of the games.
According to Chapter 47 of the Texas Penal Code, gambling is against the law unless the following conditions are met:
1. The player is in a private place.
2. No one profits from hosting the game.
3. The risk of losing and the chance of winning are the same for all participants.
The Texas attorney general was asked last year to give an opinion on the legality of such businesses, but he opted to let courts decide the issue.