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DMN Editorial on Poker Rooms Is Puritanical Nonsense

This is some Music Man-level reasoning on what causes trouble.
By |
Big Tex
Illustration by Tim Rogers

The city of Dallas gave approval to some poker rooms and then recently changed its mind. We published a story about the whole deal in the March issue of D Magazine. Read it for more context. But you don’t need much background to understand that the Dallas Morning News editorial board’s take on the matter is nothing more than lazy, weak-minded, puritanical drivel. Let’s go line by line with this editorial that was published yesterday. My comments are in blue:

“When Dallas City Hall first tiptoed toward permitting gambling houses in 2019, we were concerned about where it would end.”

Were you concerned it would end with people having too much fun and staying up late on school nights?

“Now the city is backpedaling from those permits, which were clearly a bad idea from the start.”

I know you just said it was clearly a bad idea. But I don’t think it’s clear at all. Cleaning a loaded gun is clearly a bad idea. Why is it clearly a bad idea to permit card rooms? And, by the way, the term “gambling house” is silly. If you’re going to do that, you may as well call them “witches’ dens.”

“How people spend their money and their time within the limits of the law is their business. But when government gets involved in authorizing gambling of any sort, it’s wise to be aware that that’s not just any old business.”

I agree with that paragraph. Just as when a government authorizes drinking, it is aware that it’s not just any old business. Yay! We’re friends!

“In 2020, the Dallas City Council voted to grant a two-year specific use permit to the Texas Card House in the area near the ruins of the old Valley View Mall. The reasoning at the time seemed to be that this type of business was all the wrecked area would support until the Valley View mess got sorted out.”

What the actual farfegnugen are you talking about? The Texas Card House is on Harry Hines, more than 6 miles from the old Valley View spot. I know we are friends and it would be rude of me to suggest you don’t know what you’re talking about, but you are dumb.

“’As the area known as ‘Midtown’ develops, a private card house might not fit with the future uses and may not be consistent with the [planned development] and its intent,’ read a letter from owner EF Properties.

“It was an interesting acknowledgement, and one that City Hall should have read as a warning rather than as an invitation.”

I’m sorry that I called you dumb. Please forgive me. In poker terms, I was “on tilt.” I promise I’ll try harder to be nice.

“Fast forward two years and the city is now trying to shutter three private businesses that operate poker rooms. The city approved the businesses under the theory that—so long as the house wasn’t taking a cut and the games weren’t rigged—they weren’t violating state law prohibiting gambling.”

Yes.

“Now, some folks at City Hall are seeing the light that gambling businesses tend to raise concerns for residents in ways other businesses don’t. According to City Hall reporter Everton Bailey Jr., the city began to rethink its poker house stance when residents of Far North Dallas raised concerns that their homes would be negatively affected by gambling establishments nearby.”

What does “negatively affecting a home” mean? You mean like noise? No, you don’t mean noise. Card rooms are pretty quiet. The reason? Because playing cards well takes concentration. So when you use a vague but scary-sounding euphemism like “negatively affecting a home,” it makes me think you are dumb.

Gosh, I am so sorry.

“We aren’t surprised. We heard for years that strip clubs are just entertainment. The reality is that they need greater regulation about where and when they operate. The same would likely prove true for gambling houses, and the City Council would have been wise to think about what doors it was opening when it began approving permits for such places.”

Well, no, the owners of strip clubs have actually argued for a long time that nude dancing is a form of free speech, and, in fact, the Supreme Court has agreed with them. So if you’ve heard that strip clubs are just entertainment, you haven’t been listening. But I absolutely agree that they need to be regulated. And so do card rooms. But once you’ve given a certificate of occupancy to a business, you shouldn’t be able to just change your mind and revoke it because a group of people has started fussing about witches dens.

“No one is naïve to the reality that gambling takes place in private spaces all over, from country club locker rooms, to houses, to back rooms in restaurants. That’s a different matter than the city getting into the game of permitting and regulation. The stakes are suddenly higher for everyone.”

You know there’s a place nearby called Lone Star Park, right? Like, 700,000 people go there every year to drink and gamble on other people who race 1,000-pound animals at 40 mph. Somehow the city of Grand Prairie has figured out a way to permit and regulate the place. Which makes me think a world-class city like Dallas could figure out how to handle a few card rooms.

“There is a reason societies have been careful to regulate gambling, and that’s because it isn’t just another form of entertainment. It can have a broader effect on what takes place around it. Before council members are faced with another decision on getting into the action, they might remember that.”

Have you ever been to the United Kingdom? There are betting shops on every corner. So I’m curious what this “broader effect” stuff is all about. Is it related to the thing about “negatively affecting a home”?

Look, if you don’t like to play cards, that’s fine. But don’t make it sound like poker is an occult activity that rots people’s souls and destroys 30-year shingles. It’s a fun game that involves luck and even more skill. Adults should be allowed to wager on it. By regulating card rooms, the city gives operators an incentive to run them safely, just as bar owners are motivated to keep things copacetic lest they lose their liquor licenses.

Dallas is the only city in the state that is trying to crack down on legal card rooms. That’s not because we’re smarter than everyone else.

Author

Tim Rogers

Tim Rogers

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Tim is the editor of D Magazine, where he has worked since 2001. He won a National Magazine Award in…

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