An initial legal opinion is that the county will not be able to charge its proposed $500 fee per eight-liner machine within the city limits.
“I have to get with our legal department and create a letter to the attorney general,” said Commissioner Ken Haggard, who initially proposed the ordinance three months ago.
He sought an opinion from the Texas Association of Counties concerning the ordinance, and its opinion was contradictory to what he and the other commissioners thought.
“As most of you know, when you call TAC you don’t get anything in writing,” he said during a county commissioners meeting on Nov. 12. “I would prefer to have something in writing.”
This is why he is reaching out to the state attorney general.
“I will be formatting a letter to send to the attorney general for an opinion on being able to charge this,” he said.
“Currently, they are telling us that, because the city charges, we cannot.
“We can do it within the county, but we cannot within the city limits.”
A majority of the eight-liner amusement centers are within the city limits.
Three months ago, Haggard brought the idea of the proposed ordinance to the court.
Prior to that meeting, there was a meager $15 fee per machine.
Haggard proposed a fee of $750. County Judge David Silva toyed with the idea of $1,000.
A compromise was reached at $500 – the same amount charged by the city.
“In fairness, I know there are some out there not following the rules or laws, but that is not for us to enforce,” Commissioner Carlos Salazar said. “At $750, we might as well say we want you guys out of our town.”
Haggard, during that meeting, said that he had previously spoken with Jose Aliseda, then serving as state representative and now district attorney, who said that this fee would not be a problem for many of the game rooms.
Everything was on track until the legality of charging the fee for the machines was discussed during a prior meeting.
So, for now, the ordinance is on hold for the county.
There is always the question, and a topic that always comes up when fees like this are proposed, as to whether these game rooms are operating legally.
Recently, Atlantis Amusement Center was closed because of a police raid.
Beeville police special operations task force and SWAT team executed a search and arrest warrant into the suspected illegal gambling operation at 805 W. Corpus Christi St. for charges revolving around cash payouts for customers who were playing the 8-liner machines.
The arrest warrants were for suspects being engaged in organized criminal activity, possession of a gambling device, equipment or paraphernalia, keeping a gambling place and gambling promotion.
Now, Bee County is not alone in its decision to charge fees on these machines.
About five months ago, Woodsboro began amending its ordinance to set the fee at $1,000 per eight-liner.
The city of Refugio has set the fee at $500 per machine. About two years ago, the city of George West placed its permit fee at $500.
Even the $500 fee charged in Beeville was an increase from last year. Previously, this city was only charging $100 per machine.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.