No criminal case, no civil suit
The Harris County, Texas attorney announced that the nuisance lawsuits against two private Houston social clubs that had previously been shut down for hosting poker games have been dropped.
First Assistant County Attorney Robert Soard said the lawsuits could potentially be re-filed in the future, but for now, the county does not have a case. “These nuisance lawsuits rely on criminal investigations,” he told the Houston Chronicle. “If we don’t have a criminal investigation to rely on, it doesn’t make sense as civil lawyers to pursue it in civil court.”
Poker clubs shut down in May
On May 1, 2019, law enforcement officers raided the Post Oak Poker Club and Prime Social Poker Room after two years of investigating possible illegal poker games.
Private poker games are permitted in Texas as long as no rake or operating fees are taken by the games’ hosts.
The two clubs attempted to skirt the law by not directly charging patrons a fee to play poker. Instead, they had a membership fee, a cover charge, and a fee to enter the club’s poker area.
Nine people who either owned or were involved in operating Post Oak and Prime were arrested and charged with felony money laundering, gambling promotion, and engaging in organized criminal activity.
Dealers, poker players, and other employees were not in legal trouble.
DA office conflict of interest torpedoes case
In mid-July, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg suddenly dismissed the charges against all nine defendants. As it turned out, her office was taking the heat for a potential conflict of interest surrounding a former consultant who worked with Ogg.
It was uncovered that Amir Mireskandari, who was hired as a consultant to the district attorney’s office in January 2017, had promised the Prime Social Poker Room he could get a city ordinance drafted that would make sure poker clubs such as Prime could operate. In exchange for the future legal protection, Prime paid Mireskandari, private investigator Tim Wilson, and attorney Jimmy Ardoin $250,000.
Nothing came of the promised ordinance, and Prime’s owners felt they had been taken for a ride. Mireskandari said he was still planning on proposing the ordinance to City Council members, but was waiting until after the 2019 elections this fall.
Both the Post Oak Poker Club and Prime Social Poker Room plan to reopen soon. The county is also returning more than $200,000 that was taken from them in the May raids.