State District Court Judge Al Bennett denied an attempt to further delay the enforcement of new regulations aiming to crack down on illegal game rooms. Following a hearing held this afternoon, Judge Bennett denied a request for a temporary injunction to prevent enforcement of the regulations.
The office of Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan defended the game room regulations citing the lawfulness, constitutionality and enforceability of the regulations passed by the Harris County Commissioners Court in December 2013.
“We are pleased with the ruling and look forward to working with Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the Constables, and other in implementing and enforcing these game room regulations,” Ryan said.
Under the new regulations, game room operators must obtain permits, pay a $1,000 annual fee, shut down between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., maintain transparent windows, and are banned from requiring a membership for entry. New game rooms must be located at least 1,500 feet from schools, churches and residential neighborhoods. Violators could be charged with Class A misdemeanors and could face fines of up to $10,000 and jail time.
A supplier of video poker machines sought the temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction against regulations relating to establishments that house six or more video poker machines. Such establishments are often known to be hotbeds for illegal gambling, armed robberies and other criminal activity. There are approximately 360 game rooms in Houston, and about 300 more in the unincorporated county.