Texas to Look at New Poker Bill; Would Make Online Poker Illegal
Texas Hold’em may be the most popular variant of poker nowadays, but the state that the game is named after may make the online version of it illegal this year. HB 292, authored by State Senator Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin), would set up a licensing and regulatory structure for live poker in the state and live poker only.
The state legislature will reconvene on January 8, 2013 and will reportedly begin evaluating the bill, which was filed December 17, 2012, in the near future. While the bill expressly states that poker is a game of skill, it defines poker in the legal sense as (emphasis added) “…the game known as Texas Hold’em or any variation or combination of Texas Hold’em, but does not include blackjack, hearts, pinochle, rummy, Internet poker, video poker, or Asian card games such as Pai Gow.”
The bill also outlaws electronic poker tables such as PokerTek’s PokerPro computerized poker table, reading, “The commission may not approve for use in poker gaming in this state an electronic poker table or other electronic device that is capable of displaying an electromechanically or electronically simulated poker game.”
No reason was given for this, although one might guess that it has something to do with either a) paranoia that someone could program the table to rig the games, or b) the fact that electronic tables would reduce the need for card room staff, thus reducing the number of jobs potentially created by this bill.
Licensing fees are fairly low, with operators required to pay just $1,000 to apply for a license and then $1,000 each year once one is granted. Dealers, manufacturers, and distributors will incur lower fees. Licenses may be renewed annually.
Operators will be required to pay an 18 percent tax on gross poker revenues, a figure which is reduced to 16 percent if the operator also holds a pari-mutuel license. Those taxes will go to a state poker revenue fund, which will be used to pay for the costs of gaming regulation. Once those costs are covered, the rest of the money goes to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. The Department will use 50 percent of that money for services that will benefit the homeless, such as housing and medical assistance. The remainder of the money will be put into a housing trust fund.
As for the poker itself, cash games will not be capped and are allowed to have a rake no higher than 10 percent, with a maximum rake of four dollars per hand. Tournaments, unfortunately, can only have a buy-in as high as $100 with a maximum registration fee of $30. This means that Texans hoping to have a major tournament like a World Poker Tour event visit their state will be out of luck.
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