Are poker rooms illegal in Texas?


HOUSTON – Sandra Guerra Thompson is the director of the Criminal Justice Institute at the University of Houston.

How much money has been made at casino clubs?

In the wake of a pair of poker room raids in Houston, KPRC2 picked her brain on what is illegal and what is legal when it comes to gambling in Texas. The clubs made about $10 million since 2017, authorities said. And that money was made by hosting poker games, according to officials.

Why are the clubs open in the first place? And what is legal?

"Basically, gambling is illegal in this state. You know, we're not Nevada. And so there are very few exceptions," Guerra Thompson said.

Guerra Thompson has prosecuted similar cases when she worked for the district attorney in New York.

Gambling is illegal but are there exceptions?

Gambling is illegal, but there are exceptions.

"Some amount of gambling is allowed if it's in a private context, and I think that's going to be the critical issue here: Is this really a casino that's operating in the guise of a club, or is it truly private?" Guerra Thompson said.

The state is claiming that Prime Social and Post Oak Poker Club are casinos and that both made a profit from taking a cut. Officials also said the clubs tried to get around the law by making the cut look like fees charged to club members.

Are poker clubs illegal?

Poker clubs aren't illegal in Texas.

Anyone can gamble for money in a private place as long as the house doesn't profit from the game.

It's a bit of a gray area, according to Guerra Thompson.

Why did the two clubs get raided?

"There's a fair amount of this kind of gambling that goes on that just doesn't get enforced," Guerra Thompson said.

She said the smaller clubs don't make enough money for authorities to go after them.

The big money is what most likely attracted the attention of the federal authorities.

"My understanding is that these particular establishments were involved in bigger money -- big money. And I think that's part of the concern and I think that's why it's gone on to become a federal interest," she said.

Here's a map showing the two clubs that were raided: