CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — In Nueces County Commissioner's Court, they inch slightly closer to legislation regulating game rooms.
A preliminary ordinance has been drafted and is almost ready to share with the public.
“It won't take as big of an investigation or resources, as it does now, to prove illegal gambling," Assistant Chief Todd Green with the Corpus Christi Police Department said. "The mere fact that they don't have a permit or that they're violating the permit or the many regulations that are within the permit; it will make it much easier for us to enforce."
County attorney Jenny Dorsey said a preliminary ordinance has been drafted after conversations with the Nueces County Sheriff’s Office and CCPD.
Kathleen White is a bingo advocate and part of a group that has been fighting for change against game rooms. Some of those groups also helped consult the county attorney on legislation.
“We were asked to go through the Bell County ordinance and mark those things that we think are important and to have in the Nueces County ordinance,“ White said.
At the last discussion on game rooms, Deputy Chief David Cook of the NCSO said they looked at four counties that have enacted game room regulations.
Topics that were discussed on Wednesday were the operating hours, location of game rooms, limit on machines and limit on number of game rooms. The initial thoughts were to have game rooms close no later than 9 p.m.
Also, no game rooms can be located within 1,500 feet from a school or place of worship. It was also being considered to add 1,500 feet from a residential neighborhood, as well.
Cook also informed the commissioner's court that they have the option to limit game rooms by precinct.
Susie Luna Saldana was one who spoke in favor of game rooms, but she agrees regulation is needed for safety. She’s for limiting the amount of game rooms allowed.
“I think you can generate enough finance for the game rooms to be monitored," she said. "I think they can come up with the sources of money that you can have to monitor them.”
Last month, Cook said funding is needed to enforce the ordinance with proper staffing. The county attorney said the money generated would come from charging game rooms a yearly $1,000 permit fee and the county receives a small fee for each machine allowed in the game.
Dorsey said that wouldn't be enough for Cook's estimated budget of $446,000.
Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales said she spoke to Sheriff J.C. Hooper on the matter.
During the discussion in February, Hooper said a permit wasn't going to change anything. Canales indicated he's since changed his mind and told her he'd "do his best" to enforce whatever is passed.
“No extra dollars are needed to follow the law and to pursue the law," Canales said. "However, in order to have a regulatory office to receive the permits, we should anticipate that there might be some additional staff that’s needed. But as far as enforcement goes, I think his words were, 'for every action that's taken in law, it's our duty to go and make certain those laws are enforced' and we'll do our best."
A few commissioners wanted more time to look over the preliminary ordinance and think there is a lot more that needs to be discussed.
A special meeting on game rooms is being scheduled where they plan to iron out the majority of the regulations in the draft.
A timeline to have things done by April 30 was put on the table.
To get caught up on the previous game room discussion you can click here.
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