Dallas City Council authorizes $550,000 in legal fees for social-poker club battle

Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: January 31, 2023 11:44 PST

Dallas's City Council has authorized the payment of $550,000 in legal fees related to the city's battle to shutter "social poker" clubs that continue to operate in the city pending the resolution of a lawsuit over the clubs' initial licensing by a city agency. The City Council voted on Wednesday to confirm the payments to outside attorneys working on both sides of the case in which Dallas's City Attorney's office has sued the city's Board of Adjustment office, which has twice ruled in favor of the clubs' right to remain in business.

The $550,000 in fees approved comes in addition to $200,000 previously allocated in the turf-war battle, and still more legal fees are possible. Dallas's City Attorney's office attempted to revoke the clubs' occupational permits in 2022 after reversing its own earlier decision that the clubs were legal. Since the city's Board of Adjustment has affirmed that the clubs have operated according to the terms of their initial permits, the City Attorney's office was left to pursue a different argument, in that the Board of Adjustment has exceeded its authority in allowing the clubs to remain open.

Two clubs that are the direct target of the Dallas City Attorney's permit-revocation attempt, Texas Card House and Shuffle 214, remain in operation pending the final outcome of the case. A third Dallas poker club, Poker House of Dallas, was sued separately by the city in November and also remains open pending the resolution of that legal action. The city also alleges that Poker House of Dallas opened as a cabaret, then switched to poker-club operations without seeking a corresponding change in its occupational permit.

Either or both cases could end up before the Texas Supreme Court for a final say on the clubs' legality. Should the matter go that far, a ruling would impact all social poker clubs currently operating in the state, rather than just those in Dallas.

Dallas City Council torn on matter

Despite Dallas's tradition as one of the United States' most conservative and anti-gambling cities, its City Council is not completely sold on its right or need to force the poker clubs out of business. "I do adamantly believe we are suing ourselves and wasting taxpayer dollars in order to take somebody's grudge against poker rooms, which we shouldn't be doing as a council,"said Dallas's Deputy Pro Tem Mayor, Omar Narvaez.

City Council member Brad West offered similar support for the clubs. “If you shut down the legal card houses, we could go back to the days of illegal ones that are not regulated,” said West. “We could kill an industry that provides jobs and revenue to the city.”

But those takes were matched by city officials on the opposite side. “They were illegal operations and [we] have an obligation under the ordinance to revoke them,” said interim Dallas City Attorney Tammy Palomino.

Featured image source: Facebook / Texas Card House Dallas