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Charity bingo hall advocates fight to shut down game rooms

Group says game rooms are unregulated
Charitable bingo hall advocates urge to fight local game rooms
Posted at 11:12 AM, Sep 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-02 16:40:10-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Non-profits and charitable bingo hall advocates are pleading with local officials to shut down area game rooms.

At Tuesday’s Corpus Christi city council meeting, a group of people voiced their concerns and said every time a game room opens, the city, county and non-profits lose money.

Advocates said bingo halls pay taxes and give money to charity.

“With this, they’re doing good things with the communities they are in and this is being hurt,” said Eddie Heinemeyer, a former chairman of Texas Charity Advocates.

He was discussing the harm of unregulated game rooms.

“I don’t know why the IRS hasn’t looked into this,” said Will Martin, the executive director of Conservative Texans for Charitable Bingo. “Each one of those game rooms takes anywhere between $25,000 to $50,000 per week so they’re not little nickel and dime outfits. There’s a lot of organized crime there.”

“Who’s watching the game rooms?” Isaac Valencia asked. “Where is the money going?”

Valencia, the owner of El Mercado Bingo and La Valencia owner, said several law enforcement raids were conducted at game rooms in the past.

“Thirty days later, they not only re-opened in Corpus and in the county but it proliferated,” Valencia said. “There was a plethora of game rooms everywhere now.”

“Let the county pass an ordinance making these game rooms illegal and have to have a license,” Martin said.

Valencia said he’s skeptical that they will get shut down completely so he wants to even out the playing field.

“If this doesn’t get done, I’m open to re-opening a game room ourselves you know by one of our non-profits,” Valencia said. “This way the revenues come in through a trusted organization that’s already audited.”

KRIS 6 News visited several game rooms across Corpus Christi, but at each location we were told management wasn’t there to talk and we weren’t allowed to film on property.

We also asked the Corpus Christi Police Department what regulations the game rooms must follow.

They say that game rooms have the same building codes as every other business in the city.

And that for many years their narcotics and vice investigations division goes undercover to find out if any game rooms are involved in illegal gambling in our area.

Police also say they haven't received an excessive number of complaints against game rooms, but they do investigate each one.