County Attorney Ryan uses New Regulations To Stop Illegal Game Room

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 21, 2014

 Contact: Robert Soard
First Assistant County Attorney
713 274 5103 (office)
Robert.Soard@cao.hctx.net

County Attorney Ryan uses New Regulations
To Stop Illegal Game Room

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has filed a lawsuit seeking to force a Northwest Houston game room to follow county regulations and to shut down if it cannot do so. A federal Judge upheld the newly enacted regulations earlier this month.

Ryan is seeking a temporary injunction against the TKP Game Room, 9815 Bammel North Houston Road, as well as a permanent injunction to prevent the business from operating as an illegal game room in the future. The County Attorney’s Office says that TKP Game Room has no permit and violates many of the county’s game room regulations, along with a state statute on gambling.

The County Attorney’s Office is seeking civil penalties allowed under the County game room regulations which could be as much as $4.8 million.

“These game rooms are magnets for crime and our office will continue to do all we can to protect communities from establishments that ignore the law,” said Ryan. “The County regulations are one more tool our Office can use to drive illegal enterprises out of neighborhoods.” 

TKP Game Room is owned by Tram Ky Phan. It is located in a strip shopping center that also houses a day care center, with an apartment complex right behind the game room.

The game room was investigated by an undercover officer from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office on June 3, who posed as a customer and played on one of the electronic gambling devices in the game room. The officer was awarded cash winnings by Phan, a violation of the Texas Penal Code on gambling. 

Later that day, officers from the Harris County Regulatory Unit inspected TKP Game Room and found a number of violations, including:

  • No permit
  • All doors were locked, with an attendant required to allow entrance
  • Tinted windows and doors so officers could not see into the game room
  • No employee records
  • Distance violations, with the day care center and apartment complex within the prohibited distance from the game room
  • Illegal machines as defined by the Texas gambling statute

Phan was subsequently arrested and charged with “Operating without a Permit.”

Harris County Commissioners Court approved the regulations in December 2013. Game room operators filed lawsuits to try to stop their enforcement but U.S. District Judge David Hittner found the regulations were valid in an order signed August 5.

The regulations target game rooms housing six or more gambling machines, which have proven to be hotbeds for illegal gambling, armed robberies and other criminal activities. Game room operators are required to obtain permits, pay a $1,000 annual fee and shut down between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. They also cannot require membership for entry, a practice that keeps undercover police officers from entering.

The petition is available at:

http://www.harriscountytx.gov/cmpdocuments/caoimages/TKPgameroomlawsuit.pdf 

Photos can be viewed at:

http://www.harriscountytx.gov/cmpdocuments/caoimages/tkp.jpg

http://www.harriscountytx.gov/cmpdocuments/caoimages/tkp2.jpg

http://www.harriscountytx.gov/cmpdocuments/caoimages/tkp3.jpg

http://www.harriscountytx.gov/cmpdocuments/caoimages/tkp4.jpg