Three game rooms in Fort Stockton were shutdown Nov. 1 following simultaneous raids coordinated by the Fort Stockton Police Department, Code Enforcement Department and the Pecos County Attorney's Office.
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., were each ordered closed for various code violations.
In addition, the owner of the Las Maquintas will be charged with keeping a gambling place after police reported finding a loaded weapon and an undisclosed amount of cash. The currency and gaming machines were seized as evidence.
According to the police, the game rooms will remain closed until compliance is reached.
Police Chief Robert Lujan said that they received many complaints on the establishments and wanted to inspect the buildings.
“My deal is to protect the citizens of Fort Stockton,” said Lujan.
The veteran law enforcement officer said he was surprised by what he found.
In the game rooms investigators found raw human sewage and dead rats among the games. The raids also found plumbing violations, a lack of required restrooms for the building capacity, people sleeping at the sites, illegal wiring, an absence of properly maintained fire extinguishers, failure to post smoking signs, cooking and serving food without permits, bugs, alcohol on site with no required license and locked emergency exits.
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.
Local government may regulate or ban game rooms within their jurisdiction.
In Pecos County, there are currently no game rooms other than the ones in Fort Stockton and there are no county rules regarding game rooms.
“The reason is we don't have any,” said Judge Joe Shuster.
Shuster said if a game room is set up in the county, the Commissioners Court will come up with a set of rules.
The City of Fort Stockton currently permits game rooms and has no zoning rule prohibiting locations, according to city Building Official Robert Stoddard. He said the matter could be brought up at a future city council meeting.
“I can't tell you what's in the future, but they could do it through zoning,” said Stoddard.
The city treats game rooms like any other business, with no set standard specific to such an operation, said Stoddard.
In Reeves County, the Pecos City Council banned game rooms in August 2018, citing building code violations, illegal gambling and other criminal activity.
The buildings housing game rooms in Fort Stockton are all owned and then leased out for gaming establishments.
This creates a problem for the Pecos County Appraisal District as game room owners will list the physical address of the game room – and not their personal address – making it harder to find them for any reason.
The property owners often are not involved in what is happening at the game rooms.
In February 2017, an investigation conducted by the Department of Public Safety and the Pecos County Sheriff's Office of six gaming rooms resulted in the arrest of eight people on charges that included gambling, gambling promotion, keeping a gambling place, and possession of gambling device equipment. Among the game rooms raided was the Ocean King.
Unlike last week's raids, the violations were all gambling related.