CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — At it's peak, the operators of Bingoland in Corpus Christi say business was so good they were able to donate $50,000 to charities every three months.
Currently, general manager Justin Aguilar says, it's hard to make any contribution at all.
He blames the rise in popularity of gamerooms — unregulated businesses, where people play slot machine-style games — for the reduction in his business.
But Aguilar is hopeful that the regulations the Nueces County Commissioners Court approved with a gameroom ordinance Wednesday night, will level the playing field when it comes to drawing in customers.
"With these new regulations being put in place, it will give us a fighting chance to stay open to benefit our charities," he said.
The regulations include gamerooms not being able to locate themselves within 1,500 feet of a school, church, or neighborhood.
Their hours of operation will be limited, and they'll be subject to a permitting process that has lots of requirements designed to protect customers' health and safety.
Attempts to get reaction to the regulations from gameroom owners were not successful Thursday.
But before the commissioners approved them Wednesday, one owner addressed the court about the impact he sees the ordinance having.
“The 28 pages of regulations that have been presented will put gamerooms in Corpus Christi out of business," Mark Antony Palayas said.
Commissioners haven't set the date on which the ordinance will take effect, but they may do so at their meeting on May 11.
With bingo halls already regulated by the state, Aguilar is ready for gamerooms to face regulations from the county.
“Making it fair for — not only for the bingo halls — but businesses in general," he said. "A lot of game rooms — that way they’re not doing whatever they want, however they want without any kind of oversight.”