BEAUMONT — Poker clubs are a new trend popping up around Texas and, come late July, Beaumont is going to have one of their own. Gambling is illegal in Texas, but club owners have found a way around this.
As club co-owner Nino Natale of Canton, Ohio explains, the clubs aren't profiting off the game itself. He said essentially, they just provide the tables and chairs.
While casinos and illegal backroom games take a rake, (a term used for pulling money out of every pot) these clubs charge a membership and hourly fee to play. Since the club is private they're able to control membership and keep the club safe.
"In some illegal games the 'house' takes between $10 and $20 per hand. Not only is our club safer, but it's much cheaper for players to enjoy the game of poker," said Natale.
Membership fees range from a $10 daily membership to a $1,000 lifetime membership. They also charge an hourly fee for a seat at the table.
His business partner, Lane Helverson, is a Beaumont native.
"The amount of pride and love I have for this city is second to none, and as someone who loves poker, opening this business in my hometown is a dream come true," said Helverson.
Gambling laws are enforced in different ways across Texas, making it a bit of a legal gray area. The law does maintain that an "organizer" can't take money from the pot.
The gray area lies within the profit made from time-based fees, not included in the pot. It's unclear if these clubs are able to profit from these fees or not.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and his team are still trying to figure out where the poker rooms fit into Texas law.
However, unless lawmakers are able to find these poker rooms to be illegal, they're safe for now here in Texas.
Blake Briggs has lived in Beaumont his whole life, and he thinks the Poker Club will be a progressive move for Southeast Texas.
"Me personally, I don't understand why casinos are illegal in Texas, but I definitely think this is a solid step forward to maybe getting this legalized here in Texas, who knows," said Briggs.
Bryan Carter works nearby and he thinks the club will keep the money out of Louisiana and Oklahoma.
"I don't like the government telling me what to do in the first place, and if I feel like I want to go gamble then that should be my right to do so, and if it's going to generate money for schools and infrastructure then I'm all for it," said Carter.
The club is expected to open up by early August.