It’s going to be interesting to see what sort of reception the private poker club planning to open on Galveston Island receives.
For the past few years, private poker clubs have begun cropping up around the state. Just north of League City in Harris County, a similar establishment to the one planned for Galveston already has been operating.
One of the first poker clubs to open was in Austin in 2015 and others have been operating, with some success, in the state. Last fall, law enforcement officials in the Dallas-Fort Worth area began questioning the legality of those clubs. Some of the clubs have since folded.
By keeping the establishment private and membership-based and by not taking the rake, which is the commission fee taken by a card room operating a poker game, the clubs, for the most part, have been able to avoid running afoul of state gaming rules. No one except the players can receive personal winnings.
The proposed club in Galveston, Vault Poker Room, will make its money by charging daily, monthly and yearly membership fees and by a $6 chair rate, which covers 30 minutes, its owners said.
What is going to be interesting, though, is to see not only the reception by law enforcement officials in Galveston, but of the city and county’s residents.
Gambling laws, and public acceptance of gambling, is a hodgepodge of views and legislation.
And that is one big problem. We have consistently argued that state and local laws should be more consistent in regard to what is considered gambling and what is not. Just a cursory look at the Texas attorney general’s opinions over the past several years gives a good view of how gambling is constantly being defined and refined.
Texas has gambling and plenty of it. Illegal video gambling halls have become as common as convenience stores.
Video slot machine gambling halls are all across this county and all across the state. They constitute a booming industry.
Casinos already are here. They are just illegal, unregulated and not taxed appropriately, often in the form of video games — the so-called 8-liners.
The question also is not whether Texans will gamble. Texans already are gambling in big numbers in Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Nevada and New Mexico. If you doubt the size of the market, just count the number of Texas license plates at casinos in Louisiana.
Are private poker clubs one more step in expanding legal gambling into the same realm as greyhound racing, the lottery, bingo games and the like? That remains to be seen.
These clubs, though, are offering to act aboveboard. The intent is good.
Just what reception those will receive remains to be seen.
• Dave Mathews