Houston poker rooms left wondering if they're operating legally after raids

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- In an afternoon press conference Wednesday, lawyers for the Prime Social poker room said their clients did everything in their power to make sure their business was legal before they got raided.

"The damage to the people that were just making a living working there is substantial," said Wayne Dolcefino.

Dolcefino, who is speaking on behalf of Prime Social, says more than 100 employees lost their jobs when the poker room was raided in early May.

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Meanwhile, just down the road from Prime Social, AJ Atiqi is the co-owner of a different poker room.

"Playing poker is not illegal, but if you make any profit out of it, it becomes a different issue," Atiqi said. "So, we are not taking any money or rake from any pots in our clubs, so we do charge seat fees and membership fees, so there is a profit."

Atiqi says Houston poker rooms and players are left confused after the rooms were raided, but then the charges against the nine owners and operators were later dropped.

"Just let us know," he says. "Give us a little time. If you don't want us here, then we will close it down. We will wait for a better resolution."

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Atiqi says poker rooms are very thankful for Houston Police, but they simply want answers.

He worries if players are too uncomfortable playing in well-known clubs, it could make some owners and operators decide to go underground.

"If you close us down, most people don't like to drive two, three hours. Either four hours to go to Oklahoma, or two hours to go to Lake Charles," Atiqi said. "They will go wherever they are closer, and I think it would be safer if we had some kind of gaming commissioner to legally let us play."

Dolcefino says Prime Social hopes to reopen within a month, though he says a date has not been set.

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The owners of one Houston poker room say they are operating within a narrow margin of the law, but others aren't so sure.

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