Victoria, Texas -
Game rooms. Close one down, another one opens.
Since the city passed an ordinance to cease new game room permits in August 2018 - their numbers have dwindled.
But now the American Legion and other local nonprofits are looking to enact an ordinance that would not only regulate game rooms in the county but one that would eliminate them. Period.
Will Martin, Commander of the American Legion Post 166, also serves as the Co-Executive Director for Conservative Texans for Charitable Bingo.
"Some of them closed in Victoria and the city, and then they started popping up out of town and the country and out of city limits, so they're not going to go away until the county passes an ordinance that says we don't want you here," Martin said.
With eight game rooms in Victoria, Martin says, according to his calculations, the county loses $200,000 per week; that's $10,400,000 million dollars a year that could be going to county projects.
And without game rooms, Martin says, more of the targeted clientele would return to playing Bingo - a game where everyone wins.
"In the good years before we had all these illegal game rooms - the city and the county would both get a check for $80,000 per year from us; the state from all the Bingo halls in the state they receive upwards of $16-17 million a year," Martin said. "So with Bingo everybody in the state wins, it's not just the charities, it's everyone, the city, the county, everyone wins and the needs for some of these charities like scholarships for children that are not as fortunate as others. If we do not give them scholarships, our community is losing some great minds."
The owner of a game room breaking the rules by awarding winning customers with cash instead of a gift cards - can receive up to four Class A Misdemeanors, Martin says. Game rooms are also places where sex trafficking and other illegal activity can happen.
"Anyone else plagued by these game rooms," Martin said. "I know we're going to have a lot of citizens that are going to show up that I've talked to, that are not involved in Bingo. They are tired of them being in their neighborhood. Like the one right next to the Children's Discovery Museum, right next to Children's Discovery Museum, where there were two prostitutes arrested in the parking lot there, that is what those game rooms draw, so we want them all gone from Victoria, Texas."
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