After time ran out on him last year, Texas state legislator Jose Menendez has reintroduced a new bill to legalize and regulate poker in the state of Texas. The new bill, The Poker Gaming Act of 2009 (HB 222), contains many of the same aspects as his previous bill (HB3186).
The bill begins by stating the fact that the Texas Legislature has found poker to be a game of skill, and not of chance. Games of chance are declared illegal by the Texas Constitution. The word poker, though, is in reference to the game of Texas Hold’em and its variations. It is unsure whether or not Omaha will be considered a variation of Texas Hold’em and whether or not the games of Draw, Razz, or Stud will be excluded from the bill. Also, the bill only considers live poker, not online. If this bill passes, legalizing online poker for the state would be another separate battle.
Menendez sees legalizing and regulating poker as a way to keep poker out of the criminal arena. He stated, “My interest is in seeing places where people could play poker and feel safe.” Police activity could then be concentrated in areas that really do need patrolling, instead of being spread out to break up poker games.
The regulations purposed by The Poker Gaming Act of 2009 are not small by any means. Both commercial operators and charitable operators would be required to obtain licenses. The Texas Lottery Commission will issue the licenses based on the type of operator. Commercial operators would need a license for each of their locations. Poker dealers, some employees, and poker gaming equipment manufacturers and distributors would also need to attain a license, along with the operators. Obtaining licenses for charitable operators is just as sticky. Not only would the operator be required to get a new license for each event, but the nonprofit organization receiving the proceeds also needs one. Of course, issuing of the charitable license depends on those rules and regulations set forth by the Commission.
The Texas Lottery Commission will also set the maximum number of tables available at any location.
The proposed bill also requires the mandatory licensing of some businesses, those that already have alcoholic beverage licenses or pari-mutuel licenses. Federally recognized Indian tribes are also included in the group to receive mandatory licensing.
Application and licensing fees would apply to all entities that require licensing.
Tournaments would also be set up under strict regulations. The maximum buy-in amount would be set at $100, with a max of $30 in fees. Bonuses, such as bad-beat jackpots, would be allowed, but would cap out at $250.
The Poker Gaming Act of 2009 is set for review during the next regular session for the Texas State Legislature, which begins on January 13, 2009. Currently, if the bill passes, the scheduled effective date is September 1, 2009.