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DA drops money laundering charges against poker room owners

Nine people involved with Prime Social or Post Oak Poker Club were arrested and charged during a May raid.

HOUSTON — Months after two Houston-area poker rooms were raided and closed, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office dropped all charges against nine people arrested during those raids.

The district attorney’s office charged the owners and upper-level management of Post Oak Poker Club and Prime Social each with felony money laundering charges in May.

But the DA’s office dismissed those charges Tuesday because of “multiple potential conflicts of interest” in her office.

“We discovered this and we want to ensure that an outside agency independently reviews everything,” Ogg said.  

In one instance, Ogg said the conflict is due to a “potential defense witness who is a former contract employee and a political fundraiser.” She declined to comment what those other conflicts are.

The cases are being referred to the FBI.

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Post Oak Poker and Prime Social were raided by the Houston Police Department and the DA’s office following a two-year investigation. Ogg said that millions of dollars illegally flowed through both rooms.

Poker rooms—and the game itself—are illegal in Texas under a few exceptions: the games are played in a private place, all players have the same chances of winning and losing, and no money leaves the pot.

But various poker rooms throughout Texas, including Post Oak and Prime Social, claimed they were operating legally under the law.

Many ran under a private, membership-based business model. In order to enter, players had to pay a membership fee and a per-hour seat fee in order to play at a table.

Those clubs argued that because they weren’t open to the public, no money was taken from the pot, and all players stood equal chance at winning or losing that they were legal under the law.

Representatives for Prime Social said in a statement Tuesday night, “We have said since the unfortunate raid in May that Prime Social had fully complied with the law from the first day we opened.”

“We had reason to believe we were operating with the full knowledge and approval of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office,” the statement read.

A representative for Prime Social said the club plans to reopen in the coming weeks.

Attorneys representing owners of Post Oak Poker Club didn’t return calls for comment as of Tuesday evening.

The DA's office is working to return nearly $206,000 in gambling proceeds seized during the raids, Ogg said. 

A spokesperson declined to comment whether the DA's office will continue to investigate or charge poker clubs operating in the county.


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