Texas Bill Supporting Poker Introduced

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Representative Jose Menendez is trying again to create safe and legal poker in Texas as he introduced a bill into the Texas legislature that would create a commission that would license and regulate poker playing within the state of Texas. The bill is officially known as H.B. 222 and is also known as the Poker Gaming Act of 2009. The bill decrees that a poker gaming commission be created, with the commission being responsible for licensing cardrooms and approving the equipment used within these cardrooms to run and play poker games. This is the second time Rep. Menendez has tried to get legislation passed legalizing poker, as he also introduced a similar bill in 2007, but that bill never made it past the committee process.

Rep. Menendez says that the most important purpose for this bill is to protect Texas poker players by providing Texans with safe and regulated establishments in which to play poker. Texas has had numerous problems with crime at underground poker clubs this year, with several robberies occurring, most notably in the Dallas area where a man was killed during a botched robbery in the suburb of Arlington. There has even been a robbery at a VFW post. By creating safe and regulated establishments Teas poker players would no longer risk their lives and money by playing at underground poker clubs. While speaking on a Texas radio station Menendez stated “Texas Holdem is being played around the state every day. My interest is in seeing places where people could play poker and feel safe.”

Under H.B. 222 there would be two licenses available for establishments to apply for, a commercial license and a charity license. With a commercial license establishments would be able to run professional poker rooms if they fulfill the criteria listed within H.B. 222. A charity license gives an establishment the ability to operate a charity poker tournament. Charity tournament operators must apply at least 30 days in advance whenever they wish to run a charity tournament, and may only rake a maximum amount of 30 percent from the revenue that is generated.

H.B 222 does not specify a tax rate on but does stipulate how the taxes generated would be apportioned. One portion of the taxes would be distributed to the municipalities the card rooms operate in while another portion would be placed into the Poker Gaming Revenue Fund. The Poker Gaming Revenue Fund would be used to assist the homeless by improving homeless shelters, prevent homelessness, and make available housing assistance and counseling services.

Dealers and all other poker room employees would be required to get licensed by the state, with the poker gaming commission overseeing the licensing process. Dealers would also have to go through a training program approved by the commission.

The bill contains many other requirements, two of which are that new decks must be put into play every 50 hands and bonuses can be paid out, such as bad-beat jackpots, but the maximum a bonus can be is only $250.

Texas poker players are hoping the bill will pass this time, as they would benefit from legal, regulated, and safe poker.

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