Lubbock County Commissioner: By January 2024, there will be a game room ordinance in place

The commissioners voted to table the ordinance until September 11, 2023, when they take up the budget.
Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 9:04 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 21, 2023 at 6:14 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A Lubbock County Commissioner is working to clear up any confusion when it comes to the adoption of a game room ordinance.

Precinct 1 County Commissioner Terence Kovar said when he was elected to the court two years ago, Precinct 2 Commissioner Jason Corley was already looking into creating game room regulations.

“I’m not sure what happened, but it kind of died down a little bit,” Kovar said.

Kovar said last year he knew of about 45 game rooms in operation around the county. Now, there are more than 60. He said as the number of game rooms has increased, so have the phone calls from concerned citizens.

Kovar said other counties in Texas have game room ordinances, so he and Corley met with an outside attorney to draw up an ordinance for Lubbock County. The attorney was in favor of more restrictions but told the commissioners he did have a client in the game room business.

The ordinance they created would limit game rooms to one per 30,000 county residents. The game rooms would also have to be at least 1,000 feet away from places like schools and residential areas.

Right now, game rooms can operate 24 hours a day. The proposed ordinance limits hours of operation to 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday through Sunday.

Violators could face fines of $10,000.

Kovar said Lubbock County’s current game rooms would be grandfathered in. If this ordinance is adopted, the regulations would go into effect on January 1, 2024.

Kovar said they presented the draft to the Lubbock County District Attorney’s Office and the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office in February 2023.

“They looked at it and they had several issues with that certain ordinance and they were going to go through, examine the documents, and make changes as necessary. And that is where we are now,” Kovar said.

Kovar said they did not come up with a deadline, so last week, Corley put the item on the agenda.

A district attorney and the sheriff voiced their concerns publically, telling commissioners they needed more time to make changes to the document and make sure they had the budget to regulate and enforce, and ordinance.

The commissioners voted to table the ordinance until September 11, 2023, when they take up the budget.

“We didn’t stop an ordinance. All we did was delay approving that one ordinance,” Kovar said. “This was written by an outside attorney who has a client with a game room business, and so we want to make sure this ordinance isn’t written for one business owner and not the other. In my opinion, I would rather do away with all of them, zero game rooms and we don’t have to have this discussion, but by January 2024 there will be a game room ordinance in place,” Kovar said.

Hours after the meeting, Lubbock police arrested a suspect for shooting one person at a home, two at a game room, and another at a gas station.

Commissioner Corley issued the following statement:

The events of today’s shooting at a local game room are an unfortunate reminder of the need for regulation and oversite by law enforcement in the gaming industry in Lubbock County. It is a sad irony that this tragic event happened little more than four hours after the Lubbock County Commissioner’s court tabled a motion to enact an ordinance to regulate game rooms in Lubbock County. The motion was tabled until September at the request of representatives of the Sheriff’s and District Attorneys’ offices. The events of today necessitate the need for action sooner rather than later. I will be adding this agenda item back to the Lubbock County Commissioners Court agenda for the March 21 regularly scheduled meeting at 10:00. For those who are able please be present before 10:00 if you wish to speak during public comment. For all those not able to be present the Commissioners Court is Live Streamed on the Lubbock County Website for you to view remotely.

Our prayers are with those who were injured.

Kovar said he wants to make it clear that even if they had adopted the ordinance last week, regulations would not have been enforced until 2024.

Corley did put the ordinance on the agenda for March 21, but Kovar said he does not plan to vote in favor of it because they agreed to wait until September before taking action.

Kovar said if the district attorney’s office and the sheriff’s office come up with an ordinance that the commissioners approve of, then he is in favor of implementing it even sooner than January 1, 2024.