Last Wednesday, authorities in Houston, Texas raided two poker rooms and arrested a total of nine people that were reportedly engaging in poker-related malpractices. Prime Social Club and Post Oak Poker Club, the two poker rooms were some of the operations that had been under a two-year vice probe that sought to uncover a multi-billion-dollar money laundering scheme.
The suspects were arrested on Wednesday at 11 a.m. right before the police officers search both facilities. It was found that since 2017, they have made a total of $10 million in bank deposits – these accounts have since been frozen and face seizure. Houston police officers brought Prime Social owner Dean Maddox and his general manager, Brent Pollack, out of their poker room at 7801 Westheimer Ave. in handcuffs before a week-long $150,000 Texas Hold’em tournament was scheduled to begin.
The people who were arrested have been charged at the state’s courts with the charges being leveled against them including engaging in organized criminal activity, money laundering as well as gambling promotion. There is enough evidence for this since, as it turns out, some Houston police officers conducted undercover operations by posing as customers at each of the gaming establishments. Apparently, they were asked to pay a membership fee, a door fee, and a fee to play at a poker table.
“We are changing the paradigm regarding illegal gambling by moving up the criminal chain and pursuing felony money laundering and engaging in organized crime charges against owners and operators. Players are not being targeted,” District Attorney Kim Ogg commented.
The State of Poker in Texas
Poker rooms have managed to operate in the legally grey area that currently defines the state’s poker regulations. However, as stipulated in Texas state laws, poker games are only allowed if they are operated under the following conditions:
- The games are held in private.
- No rake is taken and no money is made from the games.
- The games are fair.
Private poker clubs in the state have, however, found ways to skirt around the state’s gambling laws by not taking a share of the gambling money and instead charging membership fees as well as other types of fees. Naturally, the operators of these poker rooms believe that they are in full compliance with the state laws because they do not collect any rake. The law enforcement officers, on the other hand, are of the opinion that that operators have been illegally facilitating underground gambling activities which is a violation of the state’s laws.