The City Council of Jourdanton passed a new ordinance regulating “Amusement Redemption Machines and Gamerooms” at their City Council Meeting on Tuesday, February 18. Gamerooms have recently appeared in Pleasanton and Poteet, and feature eight liner machines that claim to be for amusement purposes only.
“These devices look like and are very similar to video poker and slot machines,” said Jourdanton Police Chief Eric Kaiser. “Operators have tried to circumvent the state gambling laws by claiming exemption under the so called ‘fuzzy animal’ exception or claiming that the games are for amusement only, but many times these establishments are operating illegal gambling operations.” The “fuzzy animal” exception involves offering prizes, such as gift cards, lottery tickets as a prize for winning at the slot machines rather than cash (much like winning a stuffed animal at a carnival game), which circumvents the letter of most Texas Gambling Laws. However, winners often will buy an inexpensive item with their gift card and get the rest of the money back as change. Under Texas state law, only prizes or as little as $5 dollars in cash can be paid out.
Chief Kaiser said some of the rules that Jourdanton Police Department will enforce starting next week will include:
*Not being within 300 feet of a school, day care, church, or hospital.
*Only operating between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.
*Allowing police officers access to the facility anytime the establishment is open.
*Background checks for all owners and managers.
*Licensing fees to operate within the city.
*No gaming machines where alcohol is sold or consumed.
“We feel that this ordinance is in the best interest of our citizens and can help keep in check some of the less desirable activities that often accompany illegal gaming establishments,” Chief Kaiser stated. Violation of the ordinance is a Class C misdemeanor and upon convicting violators may be subject to fines not to exceed $500.