After being shut down due to a raid by law enforcement earlier this year, there were questions as to whether Houston’s Prime Social Poker Club would ever reopen. Those questions have now been answered as the owners of the membership only poker club have stated they will reopen in September.
September 5 Official Date for Reopening
According to KPRC Houston Digital Editor Aaron Barker, spokesman Wayne Dolcefino issued a statement on the behalf of the ownership of Prime Social Poker Club with the details that many were waiting for. In that statement, Dolcefino said that September 5 would be the official reopening of the club, with the business contacting prior employees in a way of getting the business back up and running quicker. “We look forward to our 11,000 members coming back and bringing a bunch of friends with them,” Dolcefino said.
There was no statement from the club regarding any changes to the club with the reopening, but its business format was something that was sweeping Texas as a whole. Because of laws in the state prohibiting Texas Hold’em (and gambling as a whole), many entrepreneurs – the owners of Prime Social Poker Club – felt they had found a loophole in the laws. Opening up as “membership only” clubs and charging a membership fee for entrance, these new poker rooms offered cash games and tournament poker to a ravenous audience. The businesses didn’t take any rake – another issue that plagues poker businesses – and instead made revenues (after the membership fees) through the sale of refreshments.
For more than a year in Houston, these clubs were allowed to operate and became quite popular. In the city, Prime Social Poker Club and one of its rivals, Post Oak Poker Club (there has been no announcement as to a reopening for Post Oak), became the two biggest operations in the city, extremely popular with poker players who could now settle in for a game in their home town rather than take a long trip to Louisiana or Oklahoma. That was until this spring, however, when the local District Attorney started a strange journey that ended up leaving law enforcement highly embarrassed.
Ending Up with “Ogg” on Their Faces
In a stunning raid in May Houston law enforcement, acting at the behest of District Attorney Kim Ogg, entered both the Prime Social and Post Oak Poker Clubs, arrested the ownership of the operations (charging them with money laundering), seized over $200,000 in cash on the premises and froze their bank accounts. In total, nine people from both clubs were arrested and, naturally, the businesses were shut down after the raids. On the way to their day in court, however, a strange twist occurred.
Almost as stunningly as the raids happened, Ogg would drop the cases against the nine owners in July after evidence appeared that the two businesses had solicited the District Attorney’s office for legal guidance on their operations and had been given the go-ahead. In particular, a consultant to Ogg was allegedly paid $250,000 to work on an ordinance that would make the clubs fully legal in the city limits and avoid the potential for such a situation as what occurred in May. That ordinance never came to light (another long story), but it was enough to demonstrate that the DA’s office was not acting as a neutral arbiter in the case.
Faced with these mistakes, Ogg was left with no choice but to drop the charges against the Houston club owners. Another lawsuit, charging the clubs with violations of “nuisance” laws in the city, was dropped also because the criminal investigations that they came from were rendered moot by the dismissal of charges. The best that Ogg could do was to forward the case to the Federal Bureau of Investigations for further examination as her office was left highly embarrassed.
What Will Happen?
In roughly two weeks, Prime Social Poker Club will reopen and probably will have a throng of players waiting to get to the tables. Prime Social Poker Club has stated that they are “reviewing their options” as to reclaiming any lost revenue from being shut down since May, potentially revenues that could total into the high six-figures. But Prime Social Poker Club will be back come the beginning of September – and hopefully without the harassment from law enforcement.
They need to make these clubs all legal or illegal state-wide, and not leave up to the whim of the counties to decide.