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Private Poker Club wants to deal cards in Nederland; public hearing set next month

NEDERLAND — Lane Helveston says he has heard the same request for months: When will you open a private poker club in Mid-County?

The owner of Texas Poker Club has been operating in Beaumont for more than a year and says the Jefferson County location already boasts more than 700 members.

He wants to bring a similar enterprise to 3505 Nederland Avenue, Suite C in Nederland.

“It’s far from (a casino),” Helveston told The Port Arthur News. “It’s no different than going to play pool at a pool hall. You come in, it’s a private club, you are a member of a club. We’ve got guys that come up there to watch the fights. They don’t even play cards. They come to hang out with their buddies and drink a couple of beers.”

To operate in Nederland, Helveston will have to be granted a specific use permit and receive approval from the Nederland City Council.

On Monday afternoon, Council members officially set a Joint Public Hearing schedule, which includes a first public hearing at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 14 at city hall.

Nederland City Manager Chris Duque said the poker club does not fit in any of the existing zoning ordinance uses; therefore, it must receive a specific use permit to operate. That can only be granted by the City Council.

A council vote on the issue is scheduled for Oct. 28.

According to Duque, Helveston and Texas Poker Club can now present the request, and the City Council and any neighbor or community member has the same opportunity to offer input or ask questions about the proposed use.

“We’ve never had a private poker club request to establish in our city, so this is a first,” Duque said.

Private poker clubs operate around laws that prohibit gambling in Texas. A private poker club does not take a percentage of the winnings but does charge different fees to patrons to join the club.

“These clubs have been around in Houston, Austin and other cities,” Duque said. “You read about them in the news. I think there are lawsuits pending. I don’t know how the state considers all of this, but they are allowed to stay open right now.”

Neither Helveston, nor any other representative of Texas Poker Club, were present for Monday afternoon’s city council meeting.

Earlier in the day, Helveston told The News his plans for the Nederland location include six poker tables, 10 televisions, a snack machine and arcade games, describing it as a “big man cave.”

“I want the community and everyone to truly understand this is more of a fraternity atmosphere,” Helveston said. “People just come to have a good time, make friends and have a little bit of fun. We’re in Texas, playing Texas Hold’em. It’s a pretty developing and growing business model.”

Helveston stressed he would be transparent with city officials and community members about the poker club’s plans.

“We’ve been open for 15 months and have not had a single issue,” he said. “I would love for anyone to come to Beaumont to check us out. Come take pictures, come see what we have going on and have a good time.”