The eight-liners at Ranch 29 in Buchanan Dam. One of several game rooms in Llano County, Ranch 29 soon will be a bar and restaurant as well. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman
Game room owners in Llano County have until Wednesday, May 25, to file for a permit to continue operations. The Llano County Commissioners Court approved an ordinance Monday, April 25, to regulate game rooms with six or more gambling devices referred to as eight-liners, although they are computers with software for eight-liner games.
Permits will cost $1,000 a year. The ordinance prohibits anyone with a criminal record from holding a permit or working in a game room.
“We hope everyone operates a legal game room and no one goes underground and avoids the permitting,” Llano County Game Room Administrator Rick Sniktin told DailyTrib.com after the meeting. “We are going to try and wait and see who needs what from us as far as permitting. If they want to operate a legal game room, I’m glad to work with them.”
Currently, the county is putting together the forms needed and setting up an office. So far, Snitkin doesn’t even have a phone number other than the county attorney’s number at 325-247-7733. Snitkin said to leave a message if he is not in the office.
“There will be some growing pains at first, I’m sure,” he said. “We have to get this thing started.”
No game room can open within 2,500 feet of a public or private school, place of worship, residential neighborhood, land where a residential neighborhood is planned, or another game room. Those already in operation will be grandfathered on this particular requirement.
Game rooms cannot require memberships to play.
Game rooms may not lock their doors while in operation.
The establishments cannot keep law enforcement or safety inspectors from entering the premises during operating hours.
No game room can operate between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Annual permit renewals must be filed 60 days before the expiration date and will require an additional $1,000 fee.
Operating an illegal game room — one that is not permitted and does not follow these and other regulations — is a Class A Misdemeanor.
According to Snitkin, eight game rooms are currently in operation in Llano County and will have to apply for permits to continue to stay in business legally.
“If they are operating, they are going to operate on a very tight leash,” First Assistant Llano County Attorney Matthew Rienstra said after reviewing ordinance details with the commissioners.
County Attorney Dwain K. Rogers likened games rooms to “adult versions of Chuck E. Cheese.”
“At times, things are not as they seem in these game rooms and they perform illegal gambling,” he said. “It’s easy to cross over into an illegal gambling operation.”
Rogers pointed out that neighboring Blanco County has a game room ordinance and a recent opinion handed down by the 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth held that eight-liner games in any form are unconstitutional gaming devices.
“This does not apply to Llano County, at the moment,” Rogers said. “It will be appealed to the state Supreme Court and could become state law, but that will take a few more years.”
The purpose of the Llano County ordinance is in the document’s first paragraph, Section 1, paragraph 1.1, which states that the presence of game rooms tend to have secondary effects, including personal and property crimes, illicit drug use and trafficking, weapons offenses, and urban blight.
“There’s a lot of secondary ill effects from these things operating, obvious things a county does not want,” Snitkin said. “The counties that don’t have the regulations, these things seem to be popping up in the places of least resistance.”
Burnet County officials have discussed adopting a similar game room ordinance but have not yet established a timeline for when the process might begin, according to Burnet County Attorney Eddie Arredondo and Judge James Oakley. Currently, DailyTrib.com knows of at least one game room in the city of Burnet and two in Marble Falls.