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A gambling place or a legal poker room? The City of Dallas is trying to shut it down; owner says he's within his rights to operate

Dallas city leaders first approved a certificate of occupancy for a poker room in North Dallas, now the City wants to shut it down.

DALLAS — The Texas Card House owners say they are operating a private club where people can legally play poker if they pay a membership fee.

“Absolutely, and we’re operating in multiple cities throughout the state,” said owner Ryan Crow. 

Crow said what makes it legal is that members keep the money they win without having to give his business any of their winnings.

Two years ago, when he went before the council, even city attorneys seemed to agree with him. 

”The house doesn’t take a cut of this like a casino where the house takes a cut, that’s what makes it gambling. Here, all they are charging is a membership fee and as they say, the people playing put money down and they keep the money. There is no split with the house," said Crow. 

Some Dallas councilmembers were hesitant.  

"This seems like a gambling operation to me,” said Kevin Felder, a former Dallas City Councilmember. 

But, eventually, the business was approved and Crow opened Texas Card House a year and a half ago -- employing more than 200 people. 

"The average dealer makes over 42 bucks an hour and our lowest paying role makes over 30 bucks an hour, so they are well paying jobs. We provide, health, dental insurance, and I stay awake at nights worrying about their future,” said Crow. 

In December 2021, the City abruptly sent Crow a letter -- saying the certificate of occupancy was issued in error and said it was a gambling place. 

"So, we were very surprised when we got a letter saying, 'Hey, you need to shut down.' You know, we think you’re illegal based on the Texas penal code,” said Crow.

Crow said he’s operating seven other places like this across the state with no problems.

So, he’s appealing. 

"There was no effort to say, 'Hey, you were doing this wrong and you need to fix something.' It was just you need to shut your doors,” said Crow.

Crow said the City should be focused on shutting down backroom and unregulated clubs that are operating illegally and where crimes are occurring, not targeting him. He said he’s trying to provide a safe place for people to play poker. 

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