Advocate editorial board opinion: DA trumps plans for Texas Hold 'Em event

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Oct. 22, 2011 at 5:22 a.m.

A city festival planned for months shouldn't be run like a card game with all hands facing down until the last minute.

That appears to be what happened with Victoria's Bootfest plans to have a Texas Hold 'Em poker tournament.

Is it legal? The plans have been in place for months with the city attorney researching the legality of the game. Yet, Victoria County Criminal District Attorney Stephen Tyler presented an opinion on Oct. 14 that it was illegal. The event had been scheduled for Oct. 22.

Could this be selective enforcement of the law? After all, representatives of nonprofit organizations have called for several years for a gambling investigation into 8-liners, but nothing has happened.

But at the 11th hour, a week before the event, Tyler warned the city that the poker event would be illegal.

This determination came after the city had thoroughly researched the event. As we understand the law - Texas Penal Code Section 47.02 subsection B - three points are required to conduct such an event:

-- The venue has to be private. In this case, the Victoria event was to be held in a private building, in which only players would be allowed to enter.

-- No profit for the city would be taken from the event. Entry fees would be divided among the winners of the tournament. Only a $3 processing fee was charged for online registration.

-- The game should provide an equal chance. And it would have.

We think relations between the district attorney and city remain strained. Surely, Tyler knew of the plans to have a Texas Hold 'Em at Bootfest - it was no secret. And the city also should have worked long in advance with Tyler to find out how to make sure the event was fully legal under the law.

Still, questions remain about what was illegal about the nonprofit event. What were Tyler's concerns specifically? We think the city worked to make sure this event was within the rules for such an event and should get an answer to these questions for next time.

Just as the Cuero Chamber of Commerce conducts a Texas Hold 'Em fundraiser event, Victoria should be able to do the same. The only difference, it seems, between these festivals is the district attorney in the county where the event occurs.

The city had no choice but to defer to Tyler's opinion, but the cancellation of the event could have been avoided had he and the city worked together.

We urge the district attorney and city to work together for next year's Bootfest Texas Hold 'Em event. When officials don't work together, the public is the loser in this game.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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