Texan cardrooms were back in the headlines this week with news that the Top Shelf Poker Room had been raided and shut down by police, despite having a licence to operate…
The Lone Star state’s cardrooms and their frequent battles with the authorities have dominated the news for months now, with the legal loophole they operate under apparently being attacked in certain areas.
The Top Shelf Poker Room is in a community called Flint, just outside the town of Tyler, about 100 miles east of Dallas, the city where Mike Matusow recently invested in a cardroom, the PokerHouse of Dallas.
TopShelf, however, was shut down last Thursday evening after an unexpected raid by local police. A local news affiliate, KLTV, reported that “investigators seized gambling paraphernalia, US currency, financial ledgers as well as other documents and electronics believed to be associated with the promotion of gambling.”
Sheriff Larry Smith claimed that some of the investigators had been working undercover at the cardroom and they had “probable cause” to believe illegal gambling was taking place on the premises.
Although no arrests were made at the time, Smith stated in an email response to PokerNews: “… this is an outstanding criminal investigation… arrests are expected in this case in the near future.”
One of the co-owners of Top Shelf, Jesse Vann, has taken to GoFundMe to finance to help with any legal fees they accrue defending themselves against expected felony charges.
Vann explains in the fundraiser blurb:
“We have recently been raided and have had most of our assets seized. We operate within the law of the state of Texas. Our business model is set up the same as 100s of other legal social clubs across the great state of Texas. We pay our county and state sales taxes and bought this LLC last year as a legal business registered with the state. We are now looking at possible felony charges based on what we have been watching in the news and need help with legal fees and help to pay any bills or fees that come up while we go through this ordeal.”
This is far from the first crackdown on poker rooms in Texas.
An ill-fated episode in Houston – where Doug Polk, Andrew Neeme and Brad Owen have recently taken on a cardroom – back in 2019 resulted in 9 arrests.
However, all the charges were later dropped when it was discovered that District Attorney Kim Ogg’s own consultant had scammed the two poker clubs out of $250,000.
More recently, just last month in fact, the Texas Card House had its licence revoked, authorities claiming they were in breach of state regulations by “Keeping a Gambling Place”.
Other cardrooms have also been hit by the crackdown, though it seems to be on a county by county potluck basis whether there are repercussions or not.
According to a notice signed by District Attorney Jacob Putman in the Top Shelf case, the business was in violation of Texas Penal Code Chapter 47.
“The Texas Penal Code Chapter prohibits gambling in a public place and where a person receives any economic benefit other than personal winnings.”
Putman told KLTV:
“Any gambling with economic benefit to the business is illegal. We’ve seen this in other counties operating gambling rooms, hoping they won’t get shut down and hoping the law won’t be enforced. But this is the first one in Smith County in a while.”
That interpretation seems to be becoming more widespread, so don’t expect this to be the last problem facing Texan live poker fans.
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