Texas Rep. Jose Menendez' proposal to legalise poker in the Lone Star state remained on track this week, successfully passing through the Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee on a 6-3 vote, conditional on a referendum among local communities that would empower Texans to vote on the issue.
"Poker players are the only people in the state of Texas saying, ‘Please tax us,' " said Vernon Harrison, president of the 500-member Texas Card Players Association. "We want what we would get for that tax, which is a safe place to play poker."
Mike Lavigne, state director of the Poker Players Alliance pro-poker pressure group, commented: "The vast majority of communities in Texas will hold successful elections allowing Texas Hold'em at specific locations. This is a smart way to allow local control over what will quickly become an economic development issue."
As long as Texans are playing for fun, or in private home games, they are within the law. But the moment they step outside those boundaries the game becomes illegal – a source of ongoing controversy in the state which could be resolved by licensing in terms of the highly player-protective bill Menendez has introduced. And, importantly in these government cash-strapped times, it could be a useful source of new tax revenues from the operators.
Where communities vote for legalization, the licensing and presumably regulation would be performed by the Texas State Lottery Corporation. The bill also makes provision for a Poker Gaming Revenue Fund which would make contributions to social causes, especially those associated with the homeless of the state.
Menendez' bill, HB 222 titled "Poker Gaming Act of 2009", is the Representatives second drive to legalise poker in Texas. His previous attempt with bill HR 3186 was unsuccessful in securing attention in a crowded state legislative program last year (see previous InfoPowa report).
The bill is scheduled for debate in the full Texas House of Representatives later this (April) month.