I mentioned before that there was a bill to expand legalized poker this session. That bill is HB222 by Rep. Jose Menendez (D, San Antonio). Today it moved a step closer to passage as it was approved by the the Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee.
[The bill] passed 6-3 — with the agreement that local communities would be able to vote on whether to legalize the game.
“The vast majority of communities in Texas will hold successful elections allowing Texas Hold’em at specific locations,” said Mike Lavigne, state director of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA). “This is a smart way to allow local control over what will quickly become an economic development issue.”
In Texas, it’s legal to play poker for fun, or to play for money in a private home. But once the house or the dealer profits, the game becomes illegal, which has pushed the state’s poker scene underground.
If cities voted to legalize poker, the state would be able to issue poker licenses to establishments, and allow them to collect fees on poker hands and game buy-ins. The poker operators would be taxed based on their revenue, money that would be returned to the state.
Getting passed out of committee is just Step Two of that thousand-mile journey, so don’t go making any plans just yet. As I said before, this is an expansion of gambling I have no problem supporting. I wish the PPA luck in taking this the rest of the way.
UPDATE: The committee hearing for the bigger kinds of expanded gambling, “racinos” and casinos, will be next week.