Nueces County enacted new Texas gambling regulations affecting game rooms, according to a Jan. 3 press release from the county.
Chief Deputy David Cook with the Nueces County Sheriff’s Office announced his office would be active in the new regulation implementation. Nueces County will essentially legalize them in the Corpus Christi area. As Cook told the local news channel KIII:
“We’re not here to start immediately throwing people in jail for operating game rooms. We’re going to give them an ample amount of time to make (an) application, we’re going to conduct the inspections, we’re going to issue permits.”
The Corpus Christi Police Department and the Nueces County Sheriff’s Office both support the new mandates. Each law enforcement organization believes new rules should help to stem illegal gambling.
Texas game rooms have four mandates
After approval from the Nueces County Commissioners Court, four mandates are now in effect:
- Nueces County game rooms can only operate from 12:00 a.m. until 12 p.m., Sunday through Thursday. On Fridays and Saturdays, game rooms can be open from noon until 2 a.m.
- Game rooms can’t operate within 1,500 feet of a school, church or residential neighborhood
- Nueces County game rooms will be required to have armed security on-site during gaming hours
- Game rooms must apply for and receive a permit from Nueces County before operating as a legal game room
The application fee is $1,000. The fee is non-refundable, even if officials reject an application. The state officials initially scheduled new mandates for October 2022 but pushed the date to Jan. 2.
The Nueces County Commissioners Court voted 5-0 in favor of the mandates on May 25, 2022. Before voting on the new rules, the county also asked for input from:
- Game room operators
- Bingo hall owners
The county created a game room administrator position under the sheriff’s office to implement and enforce these mandates. The person will oversee permits and monitor game rooms for compliance.
Penalties for game room operators without a valid permit
After applying for a permit, game room operators have 90 days to complete the inspection process after the first inspection. The active game rooms had a 30-day timeframe from Jan. 3 to apply. However, the office will make an exception through Apr. 3, 2023, with submitted applications serving as conditional permits.
Game rooms that continue to operate without a valid permit could face the consequences. All employees can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which could be a one-year jail sentence and a $4,000 fine.
Green emphasized having a permit does not change gambling laws: “Having a permit does not excuse you from engaging in illegal gambling and you can still be arrested and charged with multiple crimes.”
The Nueces County Sheriff’s Office is responsible for processing game room permits.
Texas gambling regulations remain the same
Although Nueces County has legalized game rooms, they still operate under Texas gambling laws. Online gambling is still illegal with pending legislation that may bring some changes.
Game rooms in the county are not allowed to pay out cash or prizes with a value exceeding $5.