KCBD Investigates: Debate over game room regulations continue as Lubbock County attorneys work to write new ordinance

The commissioners voted to table the ordinance until September 11, 2023, when they take up the budget.
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 10:37 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Lubbock County Commissioners voted once again to table the proposed game room ordinance after Precinct Two Commissioner Jason Corley put the item on the agenda last week.

Lubbock County Sheriff Kelly Rowe and Lubbock County Attorney Neal Burt asked commissioners for more time to review the ordinance and make any necessary changes.

Commissioners voted five to zero to table the item until September 11, 2023.

Corley, again, put the ordinance on Tuesday’s agenda, asking the commissioners to take action. Before the commissioners voted, they heard from concerned citizens.

“We all know it’s happening. You drive up and down Slaton Highway and it’s pretty obvious lots of illegal activity is happening there,” one resident said.

While the majority of speakers agreed that something needs to be done about the game rooms, not everyone agreed on a solution.

The ordinance Corley proposed would regulate hours of operation, how many game rooms can operate within the county, and where they can operate. If passed, those regulations would take effect on January 1, 2024.

“I want to encourage you to consider this game room ordinance. I thank you for taking it up. I think it is very important for Lubbock County. These game rooms are absolute, to quote Star Wars, ‘hives of scum and villainy,’” a resident said.

Others argue adopting an ordinance only legitimizes illegal businesses.

“If you were to pass this policy and regulation would you not be legitimizing game rooms that are already illegal in accordance with the constitution of the State of Texas and with the intent of the legislature?” one resident asked.

Burt said he has a couple of issues with the proposed game room ordinance.

“Gambling is still illegal and even if we allow one game room per 30,000, or every game room that wants to sign up and operate in Lubbock County, in and of itself, gambling is still illegal in the State of Texas,” Burt said.

Burt said he also has concerns because the outside attorney who helped write the proposed ordinance has a client in the game room business.

“I don’t think we ever really let the potential alleged criminal activity and the person perpetrating it say, ’Here. this is how we like to see things regulated,’” Burt said.

Burt said he knows there is support among some commissioners for the passage of a game room ordinance, and while he firmly maintains gambling is illegal, he is working on drafting a new game room ordinance for commissioners to consider.

“In the event that it is approved to have regulations in Lubbock County, we want a much stricter set of regulations put in place,” Burt said.