Two more game rooms in Fort Stockton were closed down following joint inspections Nov. 15 by the the Pecos County Attorney Investigator, city Code Enforcement and the Fort Stockton Police Department.
One man was arrested for keeping a gambling place.
The game rooms closed were the Lucky 777 at 404 E. Dickinson Blvd., and an unnamed game room at 1309 W. Dickinson Blvd. A third game room – The Palm at 1407 N. Front St. – cleared inspection and was allowed to stay open.
The closures come after three other game rooms were closed following inspections on Nov. 1. Those rooms were the Las Maquintas Game Room, 302 N. Main St., the Ocean King Game Room, 315 N. Main St., and the BlackGold Game Room, 1012 N. Butz St.
The five game rooms will remained closed until code issues are resolved, according to city Building Official Robert Stoddard.
“The reason we closed either was life-safety issues,” said Stoddard.
The five game rooms failed the inspections on code and safety violations ranging from locked exit doors, missing posted exit plans, illegal electrical wiring, absence of or non-updated fire extinguishers, failure to post a smoking policy, rodent and insect issues, and, in the case of Nov. 1 raids, human waste being found in the gaming area in addition to plumbing issues. Illegal food service and alcohol was found at some sites.
A major issue was people sleeping at the businesses.
Police Chief Robert Lujan said the police were working off of complaints from patrons who alleged the business owners were not paying them the correct amount of prizes they were owed.
A game room is legal in Texas. It is defined as a business with six or more video slot machines. The caveat is that no money is allowed to be won. Prizes can be won, with a gift card or ticket carrying a maximum value of $5.
Lujan said after the Nov. 1 raids, that police were also looking into claims that stolen property is being bought and sold inside some of the game rooms.
The game room at 1309 W. Dickinson Blvd. was ordered closed and Tin Pham, 51, was arrested for keeping a gambling place. While police had Pham in charge of the game room business, officials at the Pecos County Appraisal District said that no one is listed as owning that game room because it is never opened long enough to find who to tax for the business.
PCAD said that the building owner can't be liable as a landlord since the owner is just renting out the property. While the building owner pays property tax on the building, the business owner must pay taxes on the equipment used in the business.
An undisclosed amount of money and 25 gaming machines were seized and the investigation is continuing.
Can't be banned
Fort Stockton is a General Law Type A form of government. This limits governmental structures and powers to those specifically granted by state law.
Game rooms are identified as any other commercial business, making the management harder for a city under General Law Type A.
“The way it stands now is they are allowed if they comply with the law,” City Manager Frank Rodriguez III said.
The City of Pecos, which operates as a home-rule city, was able to banned the game rooms outright in August 2018.
A home rule city means the power lies with the local city or county to set up its own system of self-government without receiving a charter from the state.
The game room that was allowed to stay open, The Palm at 1407 N. Front St., had only minor infractions involving signage and use of extension cords.