In the state that exemplifies everything that poker is about: brash and unapologetic behavior, bold actions, and a dazzling disregard for money, a move by the state’s own legislature to control the game of Texas Holdem (and other poker variants) may seem a tad out of place. Nonetheless, a new poker bill, introduced in December of last year, will come up for vote by Texas legislators soon that seeks to regulate and define legal poker venues in the Lone Star state. Unlike other states such as Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California, the measure won’t address the possibility of making online poker legal within the state; rather, it will seek to regulate brick-and-mortar casino poker games while putting the kibosh on Texas’ infamous home games, often with very high stakes, that garner no tax revenues and operate under the radar of the law.
Sponsored by State Representative Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin), the new measure, called the “Texas Poker Gaming Act of 2013,” was originally brought to the state house in December of last year.
The new measure will regulate land casino poker games, while banning the use of electronic poker tables in casinos. Intrastate online poker is not addressed within the bill.
Under the new bill, a special poker division would be designated within the Texas Lottery Commission, even though the Act defines poker as a game of skill, rather than of luck or chance, like a lottery.
Additionally, the bill would allow existing pari-mutuel facilities, Indian tribes and bingo halls to apply for licenses to offer poker in their land-based facilities. It delineates tribes and pari-mutuels as being able to offer poker 24/7, while limiting the game’s playing hours in bingo halls to their normal operating schedule.
Although it allows for tournament structures, the bill would cap tourney buy-ins at $100, meaning the state could never host a major poker event. Geared to favor cash games, the measure would have no limit on cash game buy-ins and a 10% rake with a $4 cap per hand. It would also allow for bad-beat and promotional jackpots.
State coffers would receive 18% of gross revenues under the measure at its maximum tax level. A portion of those proceeds would then be allotted to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, a division set up to provide aid to the state’s low-income and homeless residents.
Texas is infamous for its high-roller Texas Holdem home games, but currently only has one legal poker room: a small 12-table room at the Lucky Eagle Indian casino, located close to the Tex-Mex border.
The bill will come up for vote early this year, with uncertain passage prospects. Perhaps surprisingly in the state that lent poker’s most infamous variation its name, there are strong anti-gambling factions within Texas prepared to fight for its defeat.