Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has won another round in the fight against illegal game rooms after U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner denied a game room owner’s request to delay enforcement of Harris County’s game room regulations.
A local game room owner filed suit against Ryan and other county and city officials in an effort to stop enforcement of regulations passed by Commissioners Court in December 2013. The suit also names Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia and Houston Mayor Annise Parker as defendants for their respective roles in enforcing the regulations.
Judge Hittner signed an order today denying the owner’s request for an order to prohibit the County from implementing the game room regulations.
“We are fighting to protect neighborhoods and put illegal operations out of business,” said Ryan. “These game rooms are havens for crime and our Office will continue to work to protect communities from establishments that ignore the law.”
The plaintiff, Fabian Elizondo, challenged the constitutionality of the game room regulations, as well as the enabling state legislation, arguing that the regulations are too vague. Elizondo owns the Cavalcade Game Room at 1828 Airline, a 24-hour, members-only game room.
The regulations target game rooms housing six or more gambling machines. These game rooms have proven to be hotbeds for illegal gambling, armed robberies and other criminal activities. Under the new regulations, game room operators will be required to obtain permits, pay a $1,000 annual fee and shut down between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. They also cannot require membership for entry, a practice that keeps undercover police officers from entering. New game rooms must also be located at least 1,500 feet from schools, churches and residential neighborhoods. Violations could result in a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per day.
Enforcement of the regulations is set to begin May 30.