The Lighthouse, a retail business at 6825 RR 1431 in Granite Shoals, had a game room for a short time when it first opened. Owner Robin Reeves shut it down when informed she did not have the correct permit for the business. Now that the city has approved a game room ordinance, she plans to file for the correct permit and reopen. Courtesy photo
A hardware and lighting store on RR 1431 in Granite Shoals soon might dedicate part of its space to a game room with the computer version of eight-liners as soon as June 1, Kingsland resident Robin Reeves said. The owner of The Lighthouse, 6825 RR 1431, plans to file for a permit as soon as the city is ready to go with the process.
“We had a test run when we first opened the retail part,” Reeves told DailyTrib.com. “We rented the old La Ropa building and remodeled it. We put the games in and opened the doors to see how it would go, and it went great.”
After Granite Shoals police informed her that the occupancy permit was for a hardware store and not a game room, she closed the business — at least for the time being.
“I took out the games out of respect for the Granite Shoals police,” she said. “I wanted to make the police department happy. I don’t want to do anything illegal or even close to illegal.”
Now that the city has approved a game room ordinance, Reeves plans to open again if she can meet the requirements.
“We are next door to a church, so that may not be possible,” she said.
Reeves will not own the machines. Those will be rented from a vendor, who collects the money and distributes it. Unlike the music download game rooms, these are set up to make donations to charities.
Customers come in to make a donation and are given sweepstakes points to play on the machines, which are computers loaded with gaming software. Unlike the older versions of eight-liners, these are operated with a mouse and keyboard.
What to call these machines differs depending on whom you ask. Law enforcement officials consider the computer versions with keyboards and mice eight-liners in another form. The original eight-liners resemble slot machines and are operated by buttons on the front of the console. Texas law forbids eight-liners that award cash. Game rooms have replaced these machines with computers.
“I’m unaware of any game room machines other than computers,” said Rick Snitkin, the newly named game room administrator in Llano County, which also recently approved an ordinance. “That’s all they are anymore.”
The computer games are equivalent to eight-liners, agreed Burnet County Attorney Eddie Arredondo.
“Eight-liners is a common term for machines/devices/computers that award cash prizes after a bet,” he said. “If anything of economic benefit is awarded, then the use of the eight-liner is illegal.”
District Attorney Sonny McAfee defined game rooms as a place that, “if you go in and place a bet and win money — if they pay out in cash — that’s illegal gambling in the state of Texas.”
He does not distinguish between eight-liners and computer games either.
The Llano County ordinance, approved April 25, uses the term “amusement redemption machine” rather than eight-liner, defining it as any electronic, electromechanical, or mechanical contrivance that affords a player the opportunity to obtain a prize or thing of value. The ordinance doesn’t make operating those types of machines illegal (and cannot supersede state law anyway). The purpose is to regulate.
“Eight-liners are illegal, and that’s not what we have here,” said Jon Deba, a game room operator from Cedar Park who runs Ranch 29 in Buchanan Dam and Lucky Lounge in Kingsland. “These are computers, and you don’t feed them money like a slot machine.”
Reeves also distinguishes between the computers and eight-liners.
“The sweepstakes computer games that have preset prizes are allowable, but eight-liners are illegal,” Reeves wrote in an email to DailyTrib.com. “From what I understand, eight-liner machines are used in casinos. The money is fed directly into the machine, and the owner of the machines can change the payouts from an eight-liner with a high, medium, and low payout/winning settings on the back of the machine. I can totally understand why that would be illegal.”
Whether these games of chance are legal is not the only consideration with game rooms, said Capt. John Ortis of the Granite Shoals Police Department.
“When there was one operating in Granite Shoals a few years ago, part of our business check was to do a walkthrough,” Ortis said. (He was not referring to the game room Reeves opened temporarily.) “We found meth on the floor and syringes in the bathroom.”
Reeves’ goal is to run an operation that does not attract that kind of illegal activity, she said.
“We have a zero tolerance for that kind of thing,” she said.