Texas Opts against Raking Free Poker Games (at Strip Clubs)

by , Apr 2, 2009 | 2:52 pm

Lesson #1 in politics: It’s not about what makes sense or creating any legal consistency.

Proof: In Dallas, it’s legal to ride a motorcycle without a helmet, but illegal to ride a bicycle without one.

With that in mind, another law moved forward today that indirectly relates to poker … the Texas House approved a 10 percent tax on admission fees to strip clubs, replacing a $5-per-head “sin tax” that was previously in play. I know this law well … not only because it was a major deal at my old stomping grounds, The Lodge, but also because a good buddy of mine actually wrote it. And when he did, it was a sign to me of everything that is wrong with American politics …

IMHO, my law-writing pal totally phoned it in on this one. (Sorry, dude, no offense … just sayin’ … buy you a drink next time?) It was a terribly written law designed to generate money for a charity that the bill’s sponsor (Ellen Cohen, D-Houston) was the president of … all presented to the people as “good for women”, even though it hurt the clubs that actually looked out for their girls and encouraged the dirtier ones to operate more shadily in their sexually oriented business. When the adult entertainment industry challenged the law on First Amendment grounds, the courts agreed and declared it unconstitutional … a ruling that the State has since appealed, with that appeal still pending.

OK, so here’s where poker comes in … the way the original law was written, it said the strip clubs didn’t have to change their businesses in any way beyond taking that $5 a head. At the Lodge — voted the top strip club in the nation for 2008, btw — part of their business included hosting an amateur poker tournament every Sunday (which I started way back when, fyi). To keep that legal, it was held only on Sundays, when the Lodge had no cover charge, with no drink-minimums enforced … The tournament had to be free free free. That changed in 2007, however, when The Lodge, began taking the $5 cover, as mandated by state law.

So really, what that created was a $0+5 No-Limit Hold’em tournament, with the State taking 100 percent of the entry fee. Raked poker … made legal by one law, though still illegal under another. Oops! Amazing, people still came to play … and the state profited generated money for a charity as Lodge players competed week in and week out at a card game for prizes ranging from food-and-drink coupons to small buy-in events at the WSOP.

The new bill — sponsored by HB 222-supporting Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) — looks to correct that problem by instead taxing admission fees 10 percent … so Sundays at The Lodge could go back to being, um, cover-less, and Lodge Amateur Poker go back to being a true freeroll. If Thompson’s bill doesn’t become law, however, then the State will continue to rake “free” poker games while the courts look deeper into the legalities of my buddy’s old sin tax … which, interestingly enough, lots of other states are currently looking to copy.

Click here for a semi-SFW picture of Greg Raymer supporting the convergence of strip clubs and poker. (Zoom in for nipple.)

2 Comments to “Texas Opts against Raking Free Poker Games (at Strip Clubs)”

  1. David Alexander

    Pork Bellies…

    Nothing more…

    I want to tax “this” (that industry)
    because I don’t like it!

    Or because it should be an easy sell
    to the general public.

    And the Sexual Assault fund
    that is the sole beneficiary..

    Ha… ! Who controls that money…
    someone has to get paid to
    manage it.. and these folks end up
    getting paid as management,
    consultants or contributed to
    for raising money…

    For “the cause”


  2. Aaron A.

    On one hand I’d rather not pay $5 to play “free” poker, as I have been doing some Sundays at the Lodge. On the other hand, it’s only $5 and the laws are a bunch of non-sense anyway. Either way it seems the clubs are going to pay for these programs. I hope the money is well spent, but we’ll see!