Judge denies challenge to county game room regulations

August 5, 2014

Contact: Robert Soard
First Assistant County Attorney

Judge denies challenge to county game room regulations 

United States District Judge David Hittner upheld Harris County’s game room regulations in an order signed today. The Offices of Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan and City Attorney David Feldman defended the constitutionality of the regulations in a trial on Monday.

A local game room owner filed suit against Ryan and other county and city officials in an effort to stop enforcement of regulations aimed at shutting down illegal gaming operations. The suit also named Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia and Houston Mayor Annise Parker as defendants for their respective roles in enforcing the regulations.

“We are fighting to protect neighborhoods and put illegal operations out of business,” County Attorney Ryan said. “These game rooms are havens for crime and our office will continue to do all we can to protect communities from establishments that ignore the law.”

The plaintiff, Fabian Elizondo, challenged the constitutionality of the game room regulations adopted by the Harris County Commissioners last year, arguing that the regulations are too vague. Elizondo owns the Cavalcade Game Room at 1828 Airline, a 24-hour, members-only game room.

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. New game rooms must also be located at least 1,500 feet from schools, churches and residential neighborhoods. Violations could result in a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per day.