It’s not possible any more for elected officials to pretend they actually believe the great fiction upon which video slot machine parlors are allowed to operate openly all over Texas, a state in which gambling is supposed to be illegal.

That fiction, of course, is the notion that some of these places are operating legally within the bounds of an absurd state law that allows the possession and operation of gambling devices, as long as they aren’t operated as gambling devices.

Elected officials have for years claimed to believe, and have asked the rest of us to believe, that people were willing to sit for hours in these places feeding real money into slot machines for the chance to win novelty prizes that aren’t worth much — items limited in value to $5 or 10 times the cost of playing the game, whichever is smaller.

We’re supposed to believe that while there may be some bad actors among the operators of the thousands of video slot machines blinking and chiming away across Texas, it’s a mostly law-abiding industry providing simple, wholesome arcade games.

That’s hogwash, of course. It would be a certifiable revelation to learn for actual fact that even one of the places was operating within the law.

Elected officials for years have been abetting a criminal industry no different for practical purposes than prostitution, drug trafficking or any other illicit industry.

There’s ample evidence supporting that assertion, the most recent being this:

At least three times recently an armed robbery at a game room went unreported for hours after the fact, we reported in a front-page story Tuesday.

A victim of the most recent robbery, which, according to investigators, included death threats, told sheriff’s deputies she had not reported it for fear of upsetting managers of the game room, who didn’t want law officers coming around, according to case records.

What kind of people don’t report having been robbed at gunpoint? People who are themselves engaged in a criminal enterprise, that’s who. Drug dealers, for example, might not report having been robbed, as might someone operating an illegal casino under the thin guise of an amusement parlor.

Under state law, Galveston County has had authority to regulate game rooms since Sept. 1, 2015. The county may “restrict the location of game rooms to specified areas of the county, including the unincorporated area of the county.”

The county commissioners court can also prohibit games within a certain distance of schools, churches and residential neighborhoods, and can limit the number of game rooms operating in the county.

More than two years later, the court has been unable to take advantage of that authority. The delay begs a question about why.

Whatever the reason, county commissioners are maneuvering themselves into a bad position through their inaction.

Eventually, somebody, or more than one somebody, is going to get killed during an armed robbery at an illegal game room and part of the blame for that will fall on the court.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206;

(4) comments

Randy Chapman

Death in a robbery has already occurred in Bacliff; Texas City resident Ronnie Martin was shot and died at a game room in Bacliff several years ago. A LaMarque game room proprietor was attacked with gunfire when he was removing the money from the business at night, also several years ago. How much violence do we have to endure to finally end this garbage?


Thank you Randy, for pointing out the fact that Ronnie was killed in a game room in Bacliff a few years back. The fact that our local and State leaders continue to put up with game rooms is an embarassment to our County and State.

Mike Trube

It was a former police chief who stood before council and explained how much revenue the city could make from game rooms. He didn't seem concerned about the robberies and violence that occurs in those places. That seems like a good excuse for hiring more officers. It's a vicious cycle. And the citizens are the losers.


Jim Casey

This is exactly why I and others like me are opposed to gambling. It inevitably attracts other criminal activity—including tax evasion.

There is no argument for allowing gambling—weak as those arguments are—that would not also apply to legalizing heroin, cocaine, prostitution, and other unsavory activities.

- Jim

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