KEY QUESTION: Do counties have the authority to regulate game rooms?
MAIN REFERENCE POINT: Local Government Code, Subchapter E, Chapter 234
- House Bill 892 passed by the 86th Texas Legislature extended game room regulation authority to all counties.
- The law defines an amusement redemption machine as “any electronic, electromechanical, or mechanical contrivance designed, made, and adopted for bona fide amusement purposes that rewards the player exclusively with noncash merchandise, prizes, toys, or novelties, or a representation of value redeemable for those items, with a wholesale value available from a single play of the game or device in an amount not more than 10 times the amount charged to play the game or device once or $5, whichever amount is less.”
- The law defines a game room as a for-profit business located in a building or place that contains six or more:
- amusement redemption machines; or
- electronic, electromechanical, or mechanical contrivances that, for consideration, afford a player the opportunity to obtain a prize or thing of value, the award of which is determined solely or partially by chance, regardless of whether the contrivance is designed, made, or adopted solely for bona fide amusement purposes.
- According to Sec. 234.133., to promote the public health, safety, and welfare, the Commissioners Court of a county may regulate the operation of game rooms and may:
- restrict the location of game rooms to specified areas of the county, including the unincorporated area of the county;
- prohibit a game room location within a certain distance, prescribed by the Commissioners Court, of a school, regular place of religious worship, or residential neighborhood; or
- restrict the number of game rooms that may operate in a specified area of the county.
- According to Sec. 234.134., a county may require that an owner or operator of a game room obtain a license or permit or renew a license or permit on a periodic basis to own or operate a game room in the county.
- An application for a license or permit must be made in accordance with regulations adopted by the county. Regulations adopted under this section may provide for the denial, suspension, or revocation of a license or permit.
- A district court has jurisdiction of a suit that arises from the denial, suspension, or revocation of a license or other permit by a county.
- According to Sec. 234.135., a county may impose a fee not to exceed $1,000 on an applicant for a license or permit or for the renewal of the license or permit required under this subchapter. The fee must be based on the cost of processing the application and investigating the applicant.
- According to Sec. 234.136., a peace officer or county employee may inspect a business in the county to determine the number of amusement redemption machines or machines that are located on the premises of the business.
- A peace officer or county employee may inspect any business in which six or more amusement redemption machines or machines described in the law are located to determine whether the business is in compliance with the law.
- A person violates this subchapter if the person fails to allow a peace officer or county employee to conduct an inspection.
- The statute includes information on related civil and criminal penalties.