Texas Poker Gaming Act of 2013 Introduced in State Legislature

The bill would create a poker division under the Texas Lottery. Existing pari-mutuel facilities, bingo halls and tribal organizations would be eligable to apply for licenses.

Correction: The article as originally published stated that online poker would be banned under the proposed legislation; however, the bill would not affect the current status of online poker in Texas.

Texas state legislatures will have a new poker bill to consider in 2013, after a measure called the “Texas Poker Gaming Act of 2013” was introduced in December.

The new bill, sponsored by State Representative Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin), seeks to regulate the offering of brick-and-mortar poker games. However, electronic poker tables, warmly supported in an earlier Texas poker measure that died in committee, would be banned under the Rodriguez bill.

Rodriguez’ measure would define a new poker division of the Texas Lottery Commission, though the bill also defines poker as a game of skill and therefore not a lottery.

The bill would also allow licenses for offering poker to be applied for by existing pari-mutuel facilities, bingo halls and tribal concerns. Participating tribes and pari-mutuels could offer poker around the clock, while bingo halls would be limited to providing poker only during the halls’ normal hours of operation.

As initially constructed, the measure would favor cash-game action, with no limits on buy-ins and a 10% rake capped at $4. Tournaments could also be held, but the proposed $100 max buy-in would preclude major poker series from visiting a Lone Star State venue under this measure.

Provisions establishing bad-beat and promotional jackpots are also included.

Operators would be taxed a maximum of 18% of gross revenues under the bill, with a portion of the tax proceeds targeted to go to Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, to aid homeless and low-income residents of the state.

The bill’s wider goals appear to be the corralling of widespread illicit poker games across the state, none of which generate tax revenue for Texas. While underground games and illicit poker rooms abound, the state has only one legal poker room at present — the Kickapoo Nation’s 12-table Lucky Eagle Casino poker room, at Eagle Pass, near the Texas-Mexico border.

The poker bill will receive its first consideration once the Texas state legislature reconvenes in January of 2013, though its prospects are uncertain. Despite the state giving poker’s most popular variant its name, the state remains a conservative bastion with strong anti-gambling interests, which have lined up to defeat similar proposals in the past.