CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Game rooms have caused some areas issues for years in the Coastal Bend. A recent fatal shooting at a game room near Weber Road and Gollihar Road raises questions again about the legality of game rooms operated in Texas.
We spoke with some officials from San Patricio County about the subject.
“Game rooms themselves are not illegal, but if you’re gambling there it's against the law and we will investigate it," San Patricio County District Attorney Samuel Smith said. "And if we find out that you’re gambling, we’re going to shut you down.”
San Patricio County dealt with game room issues in the past. Sheriff Oscar Rivera recalls a shooting at an Aransas Pass game room a few years ago. District attorney Smith said if gambling is happening, then it opens the door for more possible crime.
“A lot of those locations ended up with people coming to rob the game rooms of the patrons at the game room," said Smith. "And so it became a big issue then, if they were gambling there were large amounts of money on the property and people went over there to steal.”
“When you start having people get hurt, a lot of these game rooms won’t report those kinds of crime because they don’t want to lose the business,” Rivera said.
Rivera and Smith said a tell-tale sign something is afoot is when there are many cars at these establishments. Smith said most people won’t go to game rooms if they aren’t being paid out.
“It doesn’t bother me that people want to gamble," said Smith. "I don’t care about that. The problem is right now gambling’s illegal and I took an oath to uphold the law.”
Smith thinks the legislature could provide some clarity that could cut down on crime resulting from illegal game rooms.
“If the state was involved in regulating actual gambling here in the state, we wouldn’t have the problem we have now, with small little locations opening up gambling establishments that don’t provide security.”
Two bills regarding game rooms were in discussion with the legislature earlier this year but went nowhere.