Several Texas Poker Rooms Face Civil Lawsuits

Written By J.R. Duren on March 20, 2023
Texas Poker Rooms Lawsuit

If you frequent live poker rooms in Texas, then you need to know the name, Mark Lavery.

Lavery is a Chicago-based attorney who has brought a lawsuit against multiple poker clubs, including several San Antonio-area live poker establishments owned by businessman Sammy Wayne Nooner, according to Bexar County court records.

Lavery contends the facilities are illegal and, if his lawsuit is successful, the businesses named in his lawsuit will have to shut down. The lawsuit is another twist in a long saga about the legality of live poker rooms in Texas.

Why are live poker rooms in Texas controversial?

Texas law allows live poker games to take place in “private places”. But makes it illegal for the house to take a rake.

So, to get around this law, live poker rooms treat their business like a club. Instead of taking a rake for each hand dealt, they charge a membership fee, for example. As a result, they argue that their businesses are completely legal.

Texas lawmakers are trying to change the wording of the law. Rep. Gene Wu recently submitted a gambling bill that would swap “private place” with “private residence,” a change that would end live poker clubs.

Why Lavery is suing

According to San Antonio’s Express-News, Lavery has filed lawsuits in Bexar, Lubbock, and Williamson counties. He argues that card rooms become public nuisances and that the gambling happening there harms people with gambling disorders.

“Unregulated gambling like this public nuisance results in the harm of people with gambling disorder filing bankruptcy, breaking up marriages and even committing suicide,” Lavery said in his Bexar County lawsuit.

For Lavery, the issue is a personal one. In 2008, his wife took her life amid financial issues she faced because of a gambling addiction. Lavery said:

“The public nuisance also harms loved ones, like Plaintiff, who are survivors of suicide by loved ones or are harmed by dealing with financial problems of loved ones exploited by criminal gambling (enterprises) like this one.”

Will the lawsuit against Texas live poker rooms be successful?

On the judicial side, Lavery’s lawsuit has some hurdles to clear. For him to win the lawsuit, he needs to prove that card rooms have caused him injury, such that he has a legitimate reason to bring a case against the defendants.

However, Lavery may not need to win his lawsuit to get the brand of justice he’s seeking. If Wu’s proposed bill is passed into law, it would likely shut down all the state’s live poker businesses.

Shifting the wording of the existing live-poker legislation to “private residences” would close the wiggle room that poker clubs have used to stay in business.

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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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