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Raided Houston Poker Club Sues Legal Firm

Houston’s Prime Social Poker Club, one of two day-membership poker rooms in Houston that was raided in early May, has filed suit against the law firm that approached them about helping lobby for an “anticipated” Houston ordinance that would formally legalize such rooms and remove them from a grey area in Harris County (Texas) law. Instead, according to the complaint, no such ordinance was ever under consideration by Houston-area legislators and the whole proposal was a sham.

According to multiple Houston outlets, Bayou Social Club, the parent company of Prime Social, has filed an action seeking “over $1,000,000” against Jones Walker L.L.P. Prime Social had paid $500,000 to Jones Walker but terminated its relationship with the law firm after learning no ordinance legalizing the social-poker clubs was being under consideration, and just days before the raid shuttered Prime Social and another Houston poker club, Post Oak.

“As part of its pitch to Prime Social,” the complaint alleges, “Jones Walker represented to Prime Social representatives that it was working on an ‘anticipated’ City of Houston ordinance for card rooms, such as the one operated by Prime Social. Jones Walker further advised Prime Social to hire its investigator who would operate as part of the legal team assisting Prime Social in establishing the necessary protocols in order to obtain a license under the ‘coming’ or ‘anticipated’ ordinance. Based on this representation, Prime Social paid significant sums to Jones Walker’s investigator, including sums Jones Walker represented would cover the license fee under the ‘coming’ or ‘anticipated’ ordinance.

“As it turns out, there was no ‘coming’ or ‘anticipated’ ordinance, and there was no basis for Jones Walker to believe it was legitimate. Indeed, the ‘anticipated’ ordinance turned out to be nothing more than an ‘idea’ being peddle by a separate client or acquaintance of the attorneys at Jones Walker and/or their investigator — a reality that was never disclosed to Prime Social and which resulted in substantial damages being incurred by Prime Social.”

The complaint does not specify whether the “separate client or acquaintance” is political consultant Amir Mireskandari, whose contract with the Harris County District Attorney’s office was terminated shortly after elements of the story involving the raids on the two Houston poker clubs became public. The suit hints the timing may not have been coincidental, stating, “… oddly, numerous other poker rooms in the City of Houston remained open for business.”

Charges against the two clubs were dropped within weeks while the DA’s office acknowledged a “conflict of interest,” and a separate FBI investigation into the situations has already been launched. Prime Social has already announced is plans to reopen the membership-based club in the near future.

The Prime Social lawsuit also alleges that Jones Walker represented itself as having gaming-law expertise: “Indeed, Jones Walker markets and maintains a ‘Gaming Team’ of lawyers, which it represents as offering ‘full-spectrum legal, dispute resolution, government relations and legislative advocacy services to clients in every sector of the gaming industry.’ These are the services Prime Social anticipated receiving from Jones Walker.”

The lawsuit alleges misrepresentation, negligence, and breach of fiduciary duty by Jones Walker. The claim is for actual and punitive damages plus interest, along with all applicable court costs. Jones Walker has not issued a public statement in response to the action.

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