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Residents, bingo hall owners take game room concerns to Commissioner's Court

Nueces County Commissioner Brent Chesney asked that the question of regulating game rooms be placed on a court agenda for next month.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The fight regarding the growing number of illegal game rooms in Nueces County continues. 

Wednesday morning, during the Nueces County Commissioners Court meeting dozens of residents spoke out against the rise of game rooms around town. 

The reason is due to how the facilities take money away from local bingo halls that benefit charities and even some local schools. 

The state of Texas allows each county the power to come up with it's own regulations to deal with game rooms. So far, Nueces County has not enacted any guidelines to ensure that the game rooms are operating legally. 

Betty Sheets told commissioners court that she was representing the bingo halls and was hoping that the Court would finally take action in regulating the game rooms around town. She said the game rooms have cut deeply into the bingo profits. Another bingo industry leader said charities are also suffering.

"I ask you today to help us," Sheets said. "The bingo halls are not making any money. We haven't had money in almost three years. I don't know how much longer we can go on. I know you all can't help, but if you can put some kind of regulations on these game rooms it would help us get our money."

Nick Pelosi with the Corpus Christi Council of the Navy League said the nonprofit donates to a number of Navy related programs. That includes the total funding to four high school ROTC programs in the City. The funding is due to the money the Navy League gets through the bingo halls. Money that he says has dried up because of the game rooms.

"In the past years we have received approximately 10 to 15,000 a quarter to distribute," Pelosi said. "In the past year or two we've had $500."

The bingo issue was not an agenda item so commissioners could not respond to the bingo supporters, but Nueces County Commissioner Brent Chesney asked that the question of regulating game rooms be placed on a court agenda for next month. He also had some ideas on what could come out of that meeting.

Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales said that the County will soon unveil a plan of action. That will include the new regulations that the County attorney has signed off on, along with who will be handing out permits and who will be investigating the game rooms to make sure they're following the law.

"Identify a new office, not the sheriffs office but identify a new office that would handle the permit," Canales said. "And then make certain to write that the court appropriates the right funding so we can have the enforcement of those permits."

Canales said that will be her proposal to commissioners. She says that she believes the court has the will to pass game room regulations and those could be before the court as early as next week.

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