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Houston And Harris County Crack Down On Illegal Gambling

Harris County and the City of Houston are about to enact new joint regulations on game rooms. The city and county want law enforcement officers to be able to crack down on illegal gambling across jurisdictional lines.

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A few years ago, Houston officials passed new game room regulations that drove many of the establishments out to the unincorporated parts of Harris County.

Now, the county has enacted even stricter regulations with the city following suit.

City Attorney David Feldman says the new rules prohibit game rooms from requiring membership to get in the door.

“That has been the greatest stumbling block for HPD to get into the game room facilities, because obviously undercover cops aren’t members of these game rooms. So by prohibiting the membership requirement, law enforcement is going to have far greater access than they’ve ever had before.”

Other regulations include a $1,000 annual licensing fee, untinted and unobstructed windows and no overnight hours.

Harris County Commissioner Jack Morman says game rooms are a big problem in his precinct, which covers much of north and east Harris County. He acknowledges the regulations may simply drive some gaming establishments further underground.

“I don’t know that we’ll ever be 100 percent successful in shutting down all the illegal gaming activities and all the other illegal activity that goes along with them. But this certainly helps us. So it’s just going to make things a lot easier for us to detect and hopefully shut down these bad actors.”

The new rules apply to businesses that have six or more so-called eight-liners, which are video poker machines.

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Laurie Johnson-Ramirez

Laurie Johnson-Ramirez

News Director

Laurie Johnson-Ramirez leads news coverage for Houston Public Media across broadcast and digital platforms. Ramirez is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Before becoming News Director, Ramirez held the position of Executive Producer for Daily News, leading daily and breaking news coverage, helping...

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