Dallas official is suing the Citizens Authority for allowing the poker club to stay open


Dallas’ top building inspector is suing a city civic agency after it allowed a poker club to continue after the city tried to shut down business.

David Session, the city’s interim building official, is seeking an order from a Dallas County judge to overturn a March verdict of a City Council of Accommodation This allows the Texas Card House to stay open, as the city now deems all poker clubs illegal under state law, even though the businesses were previously authorized.

Members of the Board of Adjustment disagreed with city officials’ decision to revoke Texas Card House’s certificate of occupancy during an appeal hearing. Board members said state law and the poker club’s business model have not changed since the city allowed the group to operate, and the city has not presented an outside opinion to support its change in stance.

“The decision of the defendant Board of Adjustment was unlawful and constituted an abuse of power because the Board of Adjustment acted arbitrarily, improperly and without reference to guiding principles,” the lawsuit said. The legal challenge was filed last month.

Attorneys Andy Messer, representing the regulatory body, and Tom Brandt, representing Session, did not return messages for comment on Wednesday.

Dave Neumann, chairman of the Board of Adjustment, declined to comment. He is a former city councilman and was one of the five board members who voted to overturn the city’s revocation of Texas Card House’s occupancy certificate.

Both sides are represented by attorneys who do not work for the city. Dallas pays the company that represents Session. It’s not immediately clear if the city is also paying for legal representation for the settlement committee.

Gambling is illegal in Texas, including betting money or other items of value in games played with cards, dice, balls or other devices. But it is legal when the games take place in a private place, when no one receives any economic benefit other than personal winnings, and when all players have an equal chance of winning, except for the benefit of individual skill or luck.

Because poker is a game of skill, proponents argue, it doesn’t fall under explicit gambling. Poker companies are legally allowed to operate statewide by charging customers membership or access fees, rather than directly collecting money from games. The profit for companies and employees comes from membership fees, food and drink served and tips. The companies argue that any winnings players give directly to workers are not against the law as tipping is not mandatory and they are free to spend their winnings as they see fit.

But the ambiguity in a section of the law about who can and cannot receive financial benefits from the games is one of the key issues between some cities, like Dallas, and the operators.

Dallas building officials have approved occupancy certificates for the Texas Card House in northwest Dallas near Farmers Branch and at least two other poker businesses since 2020. But after a backlash last summer from some residents of far north Dallas who opposed plans for another poker room near their neighborhood, the city officials said they had reexamined the state’s gambling law and claimed they had Poker shops illegally allowed to operate because they misunderstood the rules.

The city’s stance now is that poker clubs are illegal. Construction officials last year revoked occupancy certificates from companies they had previously approved and turned down bids from other poker clubs wanting to open in Dallas.

The city now faces three lawsuits in Dallas County District Court challenging its interpretation that poker rooms violated the Texas gambling ban.

Since last year, various panels of Dallas’ Regulatory Affairs Committee, which hears the challenges of development code decisions, have both approved and disapproved the city’s latest stance on poker club business. The Citizens’ Council has 15 members, but five-member boards hear appeals.

While the Texas Card House was allowed to retain its certificate of residency, the Champions Club and Dallas Poker Club owners lost their appeals against rejected applications before the city’s regulatory committee. Two separate panels of the Citizens’ Committee confirmed the denials last fall, citing the city’s new stance that the spaces are illegal.

Another company, Shuffle 214 in Lake Highlands, which hoped to keep its existing permit, had an adjustment committee meeting postponed to May 17 last month.


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