A bill has been introduced into the Texas legislature that would regulate poker within the state and provide Texas residents with a safe and legal way to play poker. Representative Jose Menendez introduced H.B 222, also known as the Poker Gaming Act of 2009, into the legislature, its goal to create a poker gaming commission that would approve cardroom establishment licenses and the equipment used to run and play poker games. Rep. Menendez tried to get a similar bill passed in 2007, but the bill never made it past the committee level.
One of the most important goals of the bill, according to Rep. Menendez, is to provide a safe venue for Texans to play poker, instead of forcing them to go to underground poker clubs where their money and indeed, very lives, are at risk. There have been several robberies at underground poker games this year, and one man has been killed. Menendez states that licensing and regulate poker within the state would protect Texas poker players by giving them safe establishments to game at. In a statement he made on a Texas radio station Menendez said “Texas Holdem is being played around the state every day. My interest is in seeing places where people could play poker and feel safe.”
H.B. 222 would allow establishments to apply for either a commercial license to run professional poker rooms or a license to run charity events. The bill lists the criteria a business must fulfill to receive a commercial license. Operators of charity tournaments must apply each time they wish to hold a tournament, doing so at least 30 days in advance. There is also a regulation on the maximum amount the operator can rake, which is 30 percent.
No tax rate is specified within the bill, but a portion of taxes collected would go to the municipalities within which the card rooms operate and a portion would go into a Poker Gaming Revenue Fund, which would be used to assist the homeless. The homeless would receive assistance through the improvement of shelters, housing assistance, counseling services and homelessness prevention efforts.
The bill also requires dealers and other poker room employees to receive licenses from the state, with the licensing process being done by the poker gaming commission. Also, all dealers must go through a commission approved training program.
Other stipulations within the bill require decks to be changed every 50 hands and a maximum payout of $250 for any bonuses that are paid, such as bad-beat jackpots.
Texas poker players hope this bill will fare better than Rep. Menendez’s last attempt at licensing and regulate poker, as they would welcome the safety that comes with regulation.