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Farmers Branch Turns Down Offer to Build Largest Card Room in Texas

The Farmers Branch City Council rejected an ordinance that would have legalized card rooms in the city by a 4-1 vote Tuesday night.

Doug Polk, a three-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner and co-founder of Upswing Poker and the Lodge Card Club, previously planned to build Texas’ largest card room in Farmers Branch. But with the City Council rejecting the card room ordinance, that ends his hopes of building the facility in the city.

“It was obviously not the result we were looking for. I felt like there were a lot of comments that residents weren’t supportive of us and that’s not true,” Polk said. “We had a lot of fans here and I just want to thank them. It wasn’t just the outsiders of Farmers Branch who lost tonight, but many residents as well.”

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The 47,000 square foot facility would have been located at 4880 Alpha Road, just minutes from the Dallas North Tollway and Galleria Dallas. The nearby area is mostly warehouses, as card rooms would not have been allowed to operate within 1,000 feet of a school under the failing ordinance.

Polk’s facilities were to include a restaurant, a bar and approximately 100 table games such as poker. The card room reportedly employed about 300 people and generated about 300,000 annual visitors, Polk said.

Although Polk was turned away from Farmers Branch, he did not abandon his goal of building card rooms throughout Texas. He already has a 27,000-square-foot card room in Round Rock that hosts more than 200,000 guests a year and employs about 200 people.

Expanding to other major cities like Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas is always on his mind.

“I need to get a good night’s sleep first, but I need to meet more people and make more alliances,” Polk said. “I think a lot of people here in North Texas are reasonable and we can convince them that this is a good thing. I hope one day we can show them that a card room is the best thing for this town and others.

Around 27 people spoke in favor of legalizing card rooms while 25 people expressed opposition to their presence in the city. While the denial is a loss for Polk, it’s a big win for some Farmers Branch residents like Adrienne Wright, who worry about the potential impact of card rooms.

“They’re talking about how this will generate business for restaurants and hotels, but it won’t. People who frequent that will go to nearby places like Addison,” Wright said. “One of the most important things to consider is that Texas has not legalized gambling. We cannot afford that risk. Is this what we want? How does this fit into our city’s brand?

Polk looked all over North Texas where he could build a card room in areas like Denton County, Tarrant County and Denton County, but each of them prohibits the operation of card rooms. This left Dallas County and Farmers Branch as one of Polk’s only options for a card room in the area.

Dallas legalized card rooms in 2019 and licensed the city’s first poker site, Texas Card House. But the city changed its mind and ordered the establishment to cease operations in 2022, saying it had mistakenly approved the certificates of occupancy needed to operate the business.

However, Texas Card House remains open to this day due to ambiguity in the laws governing card rooms.

Gambling is illegal in Texas, but the state has about 60 private poker clubs that operate legally in a somewhat gray area. In Dallas, efforts to close card rooms have cost the city well over half a million dollars in legal battles.

Although the legality of card rooms in Texas is open to debate, under state law it could be argued that while card rooms do not charge a rake, a fee for operating a poker game, Operating a card room is technically legal.

Instead, Polk’s plan for operating within Farmers Branch was to use membership and seat fees instead of collecting a traditional commission.

In the meantime, North Texans looking to get their gambling fix will have to travel to neighboring states like Louisiana or Oklahoma to spend their money. Still, Polk sees a future in which he and other operators can build large facilities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“I think it’s too quick to say exactly where we’re going next because I still need to digest this loss. I want to look at my options and see how this can play out,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult to get this project off the ground, but this is a premier market and we want to be a premier destination one day.”

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