CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A 90-minute public comment session at Wednesday's Nueces County Commissioners Court meeting revealed the passions of people who are either for or against an ordinance regulating gamerooms.
The issue mostly pitted owners and enthusiasts of those businesses where people play slot machine-style games against those of bingo halls.
The gameroom camp argued that it isn't fair that bingo halls can legally pay out cash prizes, while they can't.
The bingo hall group said it's an unfair playing field for customers, because they're subject to hundreds of state regulations, while gamerooms have no regulations.
That will change thanks to an ordinance the commissioners court unanimously passed at the end of their meeting.
"The court gave clear parameters on what they wanted to see in those regulations," Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales said. "So in many ways, you can say that it’s done.”
Commissioners still have to finalize the regulations — likely at their May 11 meeting — and at that time they'll decide when gamerooms will have to start abiding by them.
The version that passed Wednesday night was very similar to a draft ordinance the county had previously released — with a few amendments.
When the regulations go into effect, no gamerooms will be allowed to operate within 1,500 feet of a school, church or neighborhood.
There will be hours of operation to adhere to — noon to midnight, Sunday through Thursday and 2 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The highest number of game machines allowed in one game room will be 200, and the highest number of game rooms allowed in the county will be 130.
Commissioners estimated that there are currently 124 of them.
Gamerooms will have to have armed security.
But when it comes to customers, commissioners removed a rule from the draft ordinance that forbid them from having guns or other weapons, because there was concern that it might violate state law.