As the county and cities are trying to rein in game rooms, county commissioners passed rules last month intended to do just that.
How enforceable the rules will be remains to be seen.
The new rules were the latest version of regulations officials have been discussing since the legislature empowered the county to regulate the businesses in 2015.
The rules that went into effect Tuesday empowered a single county employee — a game room administrator — to oversee game rooms. There are about 15 game rooms operating in unincorporated Galveston County.
Game rooms are businesses that largely profit from the use of coin-operated gaming machines, similar to slot machines. While gambling is illegal in Texas, state law allows game rooms to operate gambling machines if they reward winners only with non-cash prizes, limited to $5 or 10 times the cost of the game.
Many law enforcement agencies argue the game rooms often operate outside the law by paying cash prizes. They argue also that they attract crime and bad behavior.
State lawmakers in 2015 gave Galveston County rule-making authority to regulate game rooms across the county. Galveston is one of about a half-dozen counties statewide that has that authority.
Some of the rules are:
Game rooms must have permits, which owners must pay an application fee and submit to an inspection to obtain.
Once permitted, the game rooms must be closed between midnight and 8 a.m. The businesses must keep records of who works for the business and must put their employees through background checks.
Game rooms cannot operate membership programs that restrict who can and cannot enter the businesses.
The administrator will be in charge of issuing or denying game room permits and has the power to suspend or revoke permits held by existing businesses.
But now comes the question of enforcement.
While that administrator is explicitly in charge of enforcement, the new rules also can be enforced by any certified Texas peace officer, officials said.
Still, game room owners, in the past, have found ways to work around laws and rules.
It is good the commissioners set the new rules. Now, enforce those rules.
• Dave Mathews