Texpatriate has learned that the Harris County Commissioner’s Court has approved new regulations on game rooms in unincorporated portions of the City. The Houston Chronicle noted the background of these measures last night, and went into rather meticulous detail. I recommend giving the Kiah Collier piece a read.
Essentially, the new regulations require that the Game Rooms –defined as those with at least six video poker machines– register with the City of Houston and pay a fee. It also requires the rooms to not be open past 10PM, untint their windows and clearly mark the establishment as a “Game Room.” Distance requirements would also be enacted to require these places be 1500 feet away from churches, homes or schools. What the Chronicle calls “charitable bingo halls” would be fully exempted.
The game rooms are often hotbeds of illegal activity, including robbery and murder. While the City of Houston has somewhat similar regulations, they carry far more the aura of a civil violation, with violation fines not ranging above $500. As the Chronicle article notes, the new County regulations carry fines of up to $10,000.
While many of the regulations are rather straightforward, I take particular exception to the idea that these game rooms should be closed at night. Sagacious readers of my viewpoints will recall that I am a big proponent of expanded and legalized gambling. Generally, efforts to constrict it are based in the small-minded, nanny-State ideology that has brought us such blunders as the New York Soda Ban or blue laws. Accordingly, while the restrictions with an eye towards safety and openness are welcomed, those seeking to simply drive down the business of the rooms are ill-advised.