Farmers Branch rejects proposal to build largest card room in Texas

The Farmers Branch City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday night to defeat an ordinance that would have legalized card rooms in the city.

Three-time World Series of Poker bracelet champion Doug Polk, co-founder of Upswing Poker and The Lodge Card Club, had previously planned to build the largest card room in Texas in Farmers Branch. But the city council's rejection of a card room ordinance all but ended his hopes of building the facility in the city.

“This is obviously not the outcome we wanted. It felt like there were a lot of comments about residents not supporting us, but that's not the case,” Polk said. “We have a lot of supporters here and I just want to thank them. It's not just the outsiders of Farmer Branch who are losing tonight, it's a lot of residents.

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The 47,000-square-foot facility is located at 4880 Alpha Road, just minutes from the Dallas North Tollway and the Dallas Galleries. The immediate area consists mostly of warehouses because, under the failed ordinance, card rooms were not allowed to operate within 1,000 feet of the school.

Polk's facilities are planned to feature a restaurant, bar and approximately 100 poker and other table games. Polk said the card room will employ about 300 people and attract about 300,000 visitors a year.

Although Polk was rejected from playing at Farmers Branch, he did not give up on his goal of building card rooms throughout Texas. He already owns a 27,000-square-foot card room in Round Rock that attracts more than 200,000 guests a year and has about 200 employees.

He's still considering expanding to other big cities like Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas.

“I need to get a good night's sleep first, but I need to meet more people and build more alliances,” Polk said. “I think a lot of people in North Texas are reasonable and we can convince them that this is a good thing. I hope one day we can show them that card rooms are the best option for this city and other cities.

About 27 people expressed support for legalizing card rooms, while 25 people expressed opposition to their existence in the city. While the denial is a loss for Polk, it's a huge win for Farmer Branch residents like Adrienne Wright who worry about the card room's potential impact.

“They talk about how it will bring business to restaurants and hotels, but that's not the case. People who frequent here will go to nearby places like the Addison. “One of the most important things to consider is the Texas The state has not legalized gambling. We cannot afford this risk. How does this fit into our city's brand image?

Polk looked for places in North Texas where he could build card rooms in areas such as Denton, Tarrant and Denton counties, but each area banned card room operations. That leaves Dallas County and Farmers Branch as one of Polk's only card room options in the area.

Dallas legalized card rooms in 2019 and issued a license to the city's first poker venue, the Texas Card House. But the city changed its mind and ordered the facility to cease operations in 2022, claiming it mistakenly approved a certificate of occupancy needed for the business to operate.

However, due to the unclear laws behind card rooms, Texas Card Houses remain open to this day.

Gambling is illegal in Texas, but the state has about 60 private poker clubs that operate legally in something of a gray area. In Dallas, efforts to close card rooms have cost the city more than $500,000 in legal battles.

Although there is some debate as to whether card rooms in Texas are legal, under state law it can be said that if the card room does not charge a commission (commission for operating poker games), then it is technically legal to operate a card room.

Instead, Polk's plan for Farmers Branch is to use membership and seat fees rather than traditional commissions.

Meanwhile, North Texans who want to fix their gambling problems will have to travel to nearby states like Louisiana or Oklahoma to spend their money. Still, Polk sees a future in which he and others will be able to build large facilities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“I think it's too early to say exactly where we're going next because I still need to digest this loss. I want to look at my options and see how they pan out. “It's going to be a long time getting this project off the ground. Difficult, but this is a premier market and we hope to be a premier destination one day. “

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