The owner of the APC sent out a message to the membership summarizing what happened last Thursday. It sounds likely that the case is going to go to court, and that they are going to fight in what could become a landmark case.
While I continue to be skeptical that the APC will emerge victorious from a court case, I strongly support their efforts to get Slot Gampang Menang into the forum of public debate. The message raised the possibility of lobbying the legislature to change the laws regarding poker, and also stated that the APC is not planning to try to settle out of court; they want a clear legal decision.
This is great news because there is very little Texas case history on “grey area” operations like the APC. The closest case to what the APC will be defending that I know of is Gaudio v. Texas 1994, in which some guys had rented an apartment to play poker in 3 nights a week. These guys were found guilty of keeping a gambling place, largely on the basis that they were taking a cut from every pot to pay for things like rent, food, etc.
Although that case is more black-and-white than the APC’s, it will still be problematic for the APC. The law states that one of the three prerequisites for a game to be legal is that “no person received any economic benefit other than personal winnings”. The case has two problematic statements:
Based on the plain language of the statute no person can receive an economic benefit. If we apply the plain language of the statute, the jury’s finding is not against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence. In this case the waitress and dealer received tips from the players. The receipt of money as tips is an economic benefit.
If we interpret the statute as the practice commentary suggests, i.e., that no person gambling there received an economic benefit, the evidence still supports the jury’s finding. The dealer received money as a tip for each hand he dealt. He played poker with the others from time to time. The dealer’s tips were [*7] an economic benefit to a person gambling there . Therefore, someone who gambled at the apartment received an economic benefit other than personal winnings.
I think the APC is not going to be able to demonstrate that no person receive economic benefit; after all, they operated it as a business, complete with paid dealers and waitresses.
Striking the economic benefit clause of the law would certainly make the APC 100% legal, but it would also open the door for legal poker clubs (not casinos — games like blackjack are prohibited as they are house-favored games) all over the state — something that I doubt the courts intend to do.
Here and here are the laws that the APC owners have been charged with. Here is a more detailed Austin American-Statesman article on the bust.