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Game room enforcement back on in Harris County

Better choose your eight liner provider carefully.

After clearing a few legal hurdles, Harris County’s new game room regulations – on which the city of Houston is piggybacking – are set to take effect Friday.

Late Tuesday after a hearing, a federal judge denied a request from a game room owner and operator for a temporary restraining order that would have blocked the new rules from being implemented. The accompanying lawsuit against Harris County – the second filed since Commissioners Court approved the regulations in December – still is active, with another hearing set for next month.

Under the regulations, game rooms with six or more video poker or “eight liner” machines will be required to obtain permits, pay a $1,000 annual fee, shut down between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., and leave windows unobstructed. The shops also will be required to identify themselves with signs reading “Game Room” and would be barred from requiring a membership for entry, a practice officials say keeps police out.

The new rules were originally set to take effect in March, but the Harris County Sheriff’s Office decided to delay implementation until May 30 to allow more time for game rooms to comply.

See here, here, here, and here for the background. According to Hair Balls, a motion for preliminary injunction is set for June 23, but enforcement is now happening. So be careful where you gamble, you never know when the heat may be on.

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4 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    So, Kuff, what’s your position on all of this? The whole prohibition on most forms of gambling in Texas (notable exception: the STATE run lottery) would seem to be a Republican “legislate morality” idea, i.e., gambling is immoral, except when run by the state.

    These game rooms are private businesses that, despite the police harassment, seem to have a very willing clientele. Maybe government should stop dictating to private business what they can and cannot do. People want to gamble……let them. Maybe that would prevent the hemorrhaging of Texas dollars to LA and OK.

    Thoughts?

  2. I’m ambivalent, just as I’m ambivalent about expanded gambling. I don’t believe it’s an economic windfall, and even if it does bring in money for the state it imposes significant social costs. That said, I don’t see a good rationale for banning it, in the same way that the “war on drugs” has been a bad idea – the demand for it is too great, so all you do is drive it underground, which has its own set of social costs. Allowing it, with tight regulation and enough taxation to mitigate the social costs, seems like the most reasonable solution to me.

  3. mike anderson says:

    i think the sheriffs dept. needs to focus more on the true criminals most game rooms have little or no crime it depends on their location i`ve worked in a game room now for probably 4 or 5 years weve had no trouble at all. but now the new rules say you can`t lock your door so that means yes there is going to be alot more trouble so my question is is the sheriffs dept. and harris county going to be liable for all future deaths/roberies

  4. matx says:

    Why were game rooms allowed to lock their doors before this ordinance? Because they were considered private clubs? Liability for deaths/robberies are on the persons committing the crime–not law enforcement.

    I personally think gambling is a net negative for communities (even the state run lotteries), so if game rooms are operating on the up and up, then they can withstand the scrutiny.

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