NIMBY complaints cause difficulties for planned Champions Social Dallas poker room

Champions Social Dallas logo
David Schneid
Posted on: July 28, 2021 02:18 PDT

A new social-poker club planning to open on Dallas's far north side has run into complaints from nearby homeowners that the club will cause difficulties for the surrounding residential area. Champions Social Dallas has experienced protestors outside the converted restaurant where it plans to operate, as well as a petition drive from a neighboring homeowners association that has drawn over a thousand signatures to date.

The NIMBY ("Not in my back yard!") pressure from the homeowners may have contributed to the club's decision to cancel one of its debut events. In May, Champions Social Dallas announced its plans for an eight-day poker tournament in September with a $2 million prize-pool guarantee. Last week, however, the club announced on Facebook that the planned tourney was cancelled.

News of Champions Social's difficulties came amid a Dallas outlet's report on social poker clubs' new popularity. Over 100 such clubs have opened in Texas in the past few years. The vast majority are in the state's major metro areas, including Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Austin, and other large cities.

Texas social poker clubs exploit legal loophole

The NBC5 report explored how the clubs operate in a legal grey area, too. In Texas, gambling enterprises cannot profit from the activity. In poker terms, they can't charge rake. However, there's a workaround in Texas: the clubs can charge a time fee, such as per day, which allows players to enter and play in specified cash games or tourneys.

To date, authorities across Texas have declined to charge these semi-private clubs since 2019. In May of that year, Harris County agents raided Houston's Prime Social poker club, one of Texas's most popular poker clubs. Prosecutors charged Prime Social's owners with several gambling-related felonies but dropped the case three months later. Since then, new social poker clubs have proliferated across the state.

Champions Club Dallas abuts residential neighborhood

The new poker clubs aren't always welcomed, especially in upscale neighborhoods. Champions Social Dallas plans open in a shuttered III Forks chain restaurant that closed due to COVID-19 business losses. Champions Social's planned location is just off the Dallas North Tollway, in an area of Dallas called Far North Dallas that juts well into upscale suburbia. The location isn't even in Dallas County, but is in neighboring Collin County instead.

Though the converted restaurant is in a narrow business corridor, it abuts a large residential area to its immediate east. That neighborhood surrounds the nearby Bent Tree Country Club. The Bent Tree North Homeowners Association represents the homeowners and organized the 1,000-signature petition. The area's residents want no part of a poker club that might operate 24 hours a day. NBC5 said the homeowners group was alarmed by ads for the now-cancelled $2 million September tourney.

Moving into suburbia is something that most other Texas poker clubs have avoided to date, citing the NIMBY pressure. Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis issued a statement against the club's plans. “While my office doesn’t give advisory legal opinions," Willis stated, "I have yet to see a so-called 'Poker Room' business plan that didn’t run afoul of the law." While promising to evaluate any case individually, Willis added, "Texas law is very clear in this area."

Champions Social Dallas has not confirmed an opening date for its Dallas club. The group also operates a related club in Houston, which offered a $1 million guarantee event in April. Despite big turnouts, the club closed just weeks later and is moving to a new Houston-area venue.

Featured image source: Facebook/Champions Poker Club