County to look at game room resolution

Published 1:25 am Saturday, September 14, 2019

BEAUMONT — Illegal game room operations have increased since the Texas legislature granted counties adjacent to Harris County the ability to regulate the rooms.

And now Jefferson County Commissioners are stepping on board and discussing a resolution that will give tools for law enforcement to work with. The commissioners will discuss the resolution at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in the commissioner’s courtroom, fourth floor of the Jefferson County courthouse, 1149 Pearl St., Beaumont.

Commissioner Michael “Shane” Sinegal said he believes the establishments need to be regulated, and while he doesn’t frequent the game rooms, he has heard second or third hand that some may pay cash, which is illegal in Texas.

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Sinegal doesn’t want to get involved in the moral issue of gambling as he was elected by the people, but he said he has heard from some ministers who told him there are people losing money and going to the churches for help.

Illegal game rooms have been an issue for a while — places that operate in convenience stores, washaterias and stand-alone facilities.

The resolution, in part, states that the unregulated game rooms violate gambling laws, usually operate behind closed doors and not open to the public, generates large amount of money that is not taxed and the epicenters for many other criminal activities including but not limited to capital murder, armed robbery, prostitution, drug uses, drug trafficking and more.

Port Arthur’s rules, regulations

Port Arthur city leaders already have their own rules and regulations that are pretty strict, some of which include:

  • Must comply with all zoning laws and requirements
  • Cannot be within 300 feet of any church, hospital or school
  • Operate between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.
  • Each gaming machine must be physically inaccessible and unusable from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.
  • Certificate of occupancy is necessary
  • There must be a list of business owners and operators with fingerprint background reports
  • Application fee of $1,000
  • Occupation tax fee of $15 per machine
  • Regulatory enforcement license fee per machine, $400.
  • Initial ID badge fee, $50
  • ID badges for each operator and owner of a game room must be visible at all times

The District Attorney’s Office

Jefferson Country Assistant District Attorney Gary Reaves has followed the issue for some time and is pleased there is a resolution that gives law enforcement some teeth to work with.

“Our goal is to run the illegal game rooms out of Jefferson County,” Reaves said.