FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas - Beginning in October 2015, eight game rooms were issued permits to operate in unincorporated Fort Bend County. As of Friday, none are in operation. The closures are the result of Sheriff Troy Nehls trying to keep big-city problems from further encroaching on rural neighborhoods.
“The only way you can operate a game room and make money is doing it illegally,” said Nehls.
Every padlock cut on a gaming machine and every stack of bills counted was part of a concerted effort by the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office's to crack down on game rooms operating illegally by paying cash to winners.
A game room operating near Needville was the last one in the unincorporated areas of the county to get shut down during a raid on Thursday afternoon. The machines and money were seized and one employee was arrested.
Michael Anthony Gildon, 64, was charged with gambling promotion, a Class A misdemeanor.
During the raid, Sheriff’s Office deputies seized 43 machines and $16,800 in cash. During the other raids, deputies seized a total of $158,870 in cash and 623 machines. Nehls said all eight businesses received a permit to operate.
“The only thing they want is the permit, because I don't think they care about the rules,” Nehls said.
Nehls said most businesses displayed yellowing tennis shoes, ball caps, boots or cologne and perfume as the supposed prizes, but undercover detectives found the rooms were paying winners actual cash. He said he watched these game rooms carefully since the county started issuing permits because he was worried they would attract the type of crime similar operations have in Houston and Harris County have experienced.
“You've had shootings before, stabbings, robberies,” said Nehls. “Look at all the crime that takes place in and around these game rooms in the Harris County area.”
Nehls said his deputies also shut down two game rooms that were operating without a permit. Nehls said since this last raid, no one else has applied for a permit to open a game room in unincorporated Fort Bend County.
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