The only opposition came from those affiliated with a business in Skidmore — the only eight-liner parlor in the town. Their concern was not the $500 fee per machine that the court ultimately approved but the distance requirement.
Commissioner Carlos Salazar said, “We have had nobody here talk about the location other than those that say they favor the location.”
“My suggestion is we leave the location out.”
Commissioner Ken Haggard, who had proposed the new fee and location, said that while he mimicked what the city had in its order, there were some additions.
“That had been included at the request of about 20 phone calls,” he said.
County Judge David Silva assured those who did speak during the meeting that their concerns would be considered when the court votes.
“Your opinions carry a lot of weight,” he said. “People’s opinions count and are taken into consideration.”
The business skirted the distance requirement, but it all seems moot now.
Only a week and a day after this grandfathering from the court, the game room was raided by deputies, and the doors were boarded up.
Law enforcement converged on the business Tuesday evening with warrants and seized the eight-liner machines, $17,000 in cash, the building and property.
Commissioners knew nothing of the raid at the time they discussed this new county-wide resolution.
During their meeting March 24, several people affiliated with the business pleaded for it to stay despite the new ordinance.
One woman, who identified herself only as Savannah, said, “We have never had a game room there in Skidmore.”
“We barely get anybody going through there besides traffic.”
She said that businesses like this draw people from out of town to spend money not just at the parlor but at the convenience stores and restaurants.
“Skidmore is a little bitty town, but we are very welcoming,” she said. “There is not much there, but we are trying to build it up to where there is something there.”
Salazar reminded her, and the others, that it wasn’t the court’s intention to stop the town’s growth nor close businesses.
“We are not here to close them down,” he said. “We are here to do something similar to what the city is doing with their establishments and charging a fee for each machine.”
A man, who identified himself as an owner, said that the location of the business should not be an issue because of the highway (U.S. 181).
“There is a major highway going through there,” he said.
Salazar favored the grandfathering of the amusement center.
“It is a hardship on the people that set up something, and four or six months down the line an entity says you have to move back 1,000 feet. That is where the word grandfathered comes in.”
It should be noted that game rooms like this are not inherently illegal.
When patrons are paid in cash for winning at the machines, that becomes a violation of Texas gambling laws.
Ronnie Jones, with the sheriff’s office, said last week they had been keeping a close eye on the business.
“In the city, they have robberies at these places over the course of several years. We have been checking on it.”
During Monday’s raid, no arrests were made, But statements were taken from the 21 patrons who were in the business when the deputies entered the building and blocked the doors.
Most of the patrons claimed that it was their first time at the business and that they had not been paid cash for winning at the machines and had not seen anyone else being paid in cash.
One male patron admitted that he had been to the amusement center about five times and that he had been paid about $150 after winning at the machines.
He also said he had seen others paid in cash.
Another male customer and one female confirmed that they also had seen patrons paid in cash.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.