By Margaret Kadifa
The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office recently shut down its third illegal game room since May.
Sheriff Troy Nels hopes that additional regulations that went into effect in September prompt owners of illegal game rooms to move their businesses out of the county.
“They’re going to finally realize Fort Bend County isn’t the place to do this,” Nels said.
Game rooms are legal in Fort Bend County as long as they go through a permitting process in accordance with county regulations for such facilities.
Game rooms also must only give out prizes worth no more than 10 times the amount the player put in the machine or $5, whichever is less.
But Nels doubts most game room owners intend to follow the law.
The three game rooms that were shut down since May opened before the new regulations were put in place. The game rooms retroactively went through the new permitting process.
Five game rooms with permits operate in the county.
The Fort Bend regulations, adopted by the commissioners court on Sept. 8, require game rooms to have conspicuous signage, windows and doors that are uncovered and operating hours of between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.
“We are keeping a close eye on them,” Nels said.
Detectives with the sheriff’s office seized more than $55,000 in cash and 280 machines from the three game rooms that were shut down.
Illegal game rooms are associated with guns, drugs and robberies, Nels said.
“They breed criminal activity,” he said.
Game rooms in Fort Bend County are typically located in strip centers.
The most recent one to be shut down, which was forced to close July 20, was the Richmond Amusement Center, which was at 10128 Texas 6 north of Sugar Land.
Two other game rooms were closed on May 20, at 9931 north of Texas 6 in Sugar Land and 2012 U.S. 90A in Richmond.
Detectives seized 79 gaming machines, one ATM machine and about $10,500 in cash from the Richmond Amusement Center.
Harris County adopted in 2013 regulations similar to those of Fort Bend. Nels thinks some of the illegal game rooms in Fort Bend were started by people who left Houston after the Harris County regulations were adopted and before similar ones were adopted in Fort Bend County.
Richmond Amusement Center employee, Vu Le, 28, a Houston resident, was arrested and charged with gambling promotion, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Le was released on a $2,000 bond.
Previously, Le was an attendant at a game room in Houston in 2014 when the Harris County Sheriff Office seized illegal gambling machines and more than $8,500 in gambling proceeds, according to the final decision of the 185th Criminal District Court of Harris County related to the forfeiture of the gambling machines and money. Le was not charged with any offense in connection with that case.