In Refugio County, the issue is not whether or not 8-liner game rooms should be allowed to operate, but rather, how much should they have to pay the city for each machine?
An amendment to the City of Woodsboro's game room ordinance, which did pass in City Council last week by a vote of three to two, will take three readings before it is approved and adopted. It raises the annual game room machine permit fee from $500 to $1,000.
It is just another sign of how popular the game rooms have become.
"There's nothing to do around here. I mean, people just like to have fun," Woodsboro resident Irene Vega said. "I mean it's a small town, everybody knows everybody, there's nothing to do, not even a theater here. You have to go to Beeville or Corpus or Victoria to go watch a movie or something."
"People have nothing else to do. They want to come play, especially the old people," said the manager of the Life of Luxury game room. "They come in here and they play, they have nothing else to do. No entertainment around here. Nothing. So they just come and play."
"The most I've ever won was like $200," Woodsboro resident Brianna Martinez said. "My uncle comes, and you know, he told me he won $400 yesterday."
When asked if the game room is paying out cash, Martinez said, "yeah, but he said when they do, they're going to start doing it next month... It's just like a debit card. You can, anywhere you go, you can use it."
There are four game rooms in Woodsboro. Business was kind of slow on Monday, but according to residents, it gets real busy when folks get off of work, and also during the weekends. That is when they are really packed. In all four game rooms combined, there are some 240 machines.
Residents said the game rooms make cash payouts to winners, which is illegal. Woodsboro Mayor George Hernandez, however, said that is a matter for law enforcement.
"They're well aware what they're not supposed to do, and if they pay me $80,000 to open up some building with machines, and then they want to break the law, that's their business. I'll gladly take their $80,000," Hernandez said. "The permit fee per machine that we charge is non-refundable, and it's good for one year."
To date, the City said it has collected $120,000 in game room machine fees. The City said that is more than double the amount of sales tax revenues local businesses generate a year; and if the amendment is adopted, the City said it will receive $240,000 a year from the game room machine fees.
Woodsboro Police Chief Joseph Roberts, formerly the police chief in Gregory where a game room was robbed, is the only member of the Woodsboro Police Department. He said he will support the county sheriff, who has mailed out letters to the game room operators, telling them they have until April 30 to run legitimately or be investigated.
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