Granite Shoals approves game room regulations; tables parks once again
The city of Granite Shoals adopted an ordinance regulating game rooms just one day after Llano County did the same. Anyone wanting to open a game room in Granite Shoals, which is in Burnet County, will now need to apply for a permit and follow rules of the ordinance.
Game rooms are defined by the Texas Legislature as any establishment having six or more computerized, slot machine-like games that offer players the opportunity to win something based on chance. No game room currently operates in Granite Shoals, but at least four are in business in nearby Kingsland and two in Marble Falls.
Now that Llano County has adopted an ordinance requiring $1,000-a-year permits, game room operators could see Granite Shoals as a good alternative. The cost of a game room permit in Granite Shoals is $15. The Burnet County Commissioners Court has not yet addressed the issue.
City council and staff concerns include building codes and proliferation of illegal activity, such as drug sales, around game rooms.
“A lot of these are in windowless rooms and involve other types of gambling,” City Attorney Josh Katz told Granite Shoals councilors at their regular meeting Tuesday, April 26. “They draw criminal activity and can present a whole variety of problems when they pop up. They tend to proliferate.”
Granite Shoals Police Capt. John Ortis spoke in support of the ordinance.
“We used to have two of them, but they jumped ship and moved to Kingsland,” he said. “We used to do walk-throughs. We’d find drugs in the bathrooms, drugs in the parking lots. I hope the council will take this opportunity to go forward with this ordinance.”
When asked by Councilor Steve Hougen how to separate an eight-liner game room from a Chuck E. Cheese-like children’s arcade, Katz said the question revolves around intent.
“Is it meant for kids or is it a gambling device?” he said. “Criminal law involves intent. This is amusement primarily intended for gambling purposes.”
Next question from Hougen: How is this different from purchasing a lottery ticket?
“The state regulates gambling,” Katz said. “You can have (game rooms), but regulations apply to them. The only type of gambling allowed is what the legislature has authorized.”
The state legislature passed Texas Local Government Code 234.140 in 2019 to give all Texas counties authority to license and inspect game rooms. Llano County decided to act after game rooms began popping up in Kingsland and Buchanan Dam. Now, at least one is operating in Llano as well.
At the Granite Shoals meeting, resident Derrick Klotz, who is running for the Place 4 seat against Hougen in the May 7 city election, advocated for the ordinance.
“Back in the late ’80s, early ’90s, what is now a supermarket was filled with eight-liner machines,” he said, referring to the new Texaco on RR 1431, which was also once a dancehall and bar. “They had to bring in trucks to take (the machines) out. It made headlines throughout the state. I’d like to see y’all take some action on this. It will happen again if you don’t stop it.”
The Granite Shoals ordinance states that game rooms:
- must pay an occupation tax of $15 per year
- will be sealed if the tax is not paid
- must pay a fee of $5 for the release of each sealed eight-liner
- must have a city issued permit and display it in the building
- cannot sell alcohol
- cannot conduct any illegal activities, such as gambling, gambling promotion, or selling alcohol
- must have transparent and unobstructed windows on at least one side open to the public
- cannot open earlier than noon or stay open later than midnight
- must have one state-licensed security guard on duty during operating hours
Permits must be renewed annually. Other restrictions include the amount of parking available, fire safety, and proximity to other eight-liner establishments.
The ordinance was approved unanimously. Councilor Ron Munos was not present at the April 26 meeting.
IN OTHER BUSINESS
The council once again tabled any action on an ordinance restricting the city from selling parkland. Councilors also further tabled a request from adjacent landowners to purchase 0.14 acres of Timberhill Park. That particular sliver of land is separated from the rest of the park by a water inlet.
The new ordinance would allow the city to sell this type of parkland to adjacent landowners. The park ordinance was tabled at a meeting March 8, while at the same time, the council agreed to move forward with the sale of the 0.14 acres. The issue of selling parks first showed up on a city agenda Nov. 9.
A lengthy discussion on the interpretation of state law and current ordinances followed as well as a question on who is responsible for tearing down an unauthorized, rundown building on the property.
Most of the dispute was between City Attorney Katz and Place 4 Councilor Hougen. Hougen argued that the piece of land could be declared city property and not parkland and sold for fair market value without public hearings or an election. Katz replied that because the land was conveyed to the city and identified as a park, its status could not be changed.
“The problem is that it is a park,” Katz said. “I do disagree with your interpretation.”
In Katz’s legal opinion, he said the city already has an ordinance that allows it to sell the property without an election.
“I don’t believe our ordinance states that we cannot sell dedicated parkland, but I often tell the council that my job is to prevent legal challenges for the city because that’s always cheaper than getting sued later and having to defend what we do,” Katz said. “If that’s what the council’s preference is, to proceed that way, I have no problem with that.”
Both the ordinance and the sale will be on the next agenda, City Manager Jeff Looney said.
CORRECTION: In the original version of this story, City Attorney Jeff Katz’s statements about the parks in the Other Business section of this article, were inadvertently attributed to City Council Candidate Derrick Klotz. It was a confusion by the author over the similar names. The DailyTrib.com regrets the error.