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New rules for Nueces County game rooms

A so-called eight-liner machine, which can be found in game rooms across Texas. A game room ordinance, approved by Nueces County commissioners in May 2022, went into effect on Jan. 2, 2023. The new regulations cover business hours, location, security, and permitting. Courtesy photo

Effective Jan. 2, 2023, game room owners will operate under new mandates approved by the Nueces County Commissioners Court in May 2022.

Game rooms have long been a gray area in Texas with their eight-liner machines or computers that resemble slot machines. Thus far, game rooms have maneuvered around state laws against casino gambling, either by not offering cash payouts or by selling players a product (music downloads, for example) to gain access to the machine. The courts and the voters will determine their ultimate legality.

Per the new Nueces County regulations, game rooms:

can only be open from noon to midnight Sunday through Thursday and noon to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday;

cannot operate within 1,500 feet of a neighborhood, school, or church;

must have armed security on site;

and must obtain a permit from Nueces County.

The ordinance was originally scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 1, 2022, but commissioners later moved the date to Jan. 2. Prior to its 5-0 vote on May 25, the governing body received input from residents, game room owners, and bingo hall operators in a series of meetings. The Corpus Christi Police Department and the Nueces County Sheriff’s Office supported the measure, saying it would help curtail illegal gambling.

To implement the ordinance, the county has created a position of game room administrator, who will work under the Sheriff’s Office and oversee game room permitting and monitor compliance with regulations.

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