Five dozen poker players were hoping to win a pot of money Tuesday night playing No Limit Texas Holdem at Jake's Sports Cafe. The owner says it wasn't illegal gambling, but the Lubbock District Attorney's Office says, "You bet it was."
"Everyone was disappointed," said Scott Stevenson, Owner of Jake's Sports Cafe. "[Tuesday] we planned to have a poker tournament," that is until the TABC vowed to shut Stevenson down if he did.
"In Texas the basic proposition is gambling is illegal," said Assistant Criminal District Attorney, John Grace. Grace warned Jake's with a phone call that what they were about to do was illegal. "There are four kinds of legal gambling in Texas, and its the lottery, horse racing, dog racing and bingo. If it it's not one of those four its illegal," said Grace.
However, Stevenson says it's not gambling at all. "We were charging an entry fee, and then whoever won would get the entry fee, just like in a golf tournament or in a pool tournament," said Stevenson.
"What they were proposing does not fall within the exceptions of the gambling statute." Grace went on to say that under the statute, gambling is allowed in private as long as nobody is doing it as a business that the only people profiting are the people playing.
Jake's contends that since they wouldn't be taking a cut of the entry fee its above board. Stevenson said the District Attorney's Office told them it was okay. "We checked with the DA before doing this, and they told us as long as we did not take money or make money from the game then it would be legal."
Grace disagrees. "I can tell you that our office does not give legal opinions. We won't tell somebody 'Yeah if you do it that's way its ok, and you're not breaking the law."
Jake's has decided to hold its chips but wants to try hosting the tournament again. When asked what they would do if Jake's would try and hold another poker game, Grace said the DA and TABC would break it up.
The District Attorney's Office says that Jake's would have made Money off of the poker game by the increase in business because of the tournament. That, and the fact that players would be playing for money in a commercial establishment, violates the law.