SLATON, Texas — A new side effect of the pandemic is game rooms popping up all along the Slaton highway, with reports of some illegal activities happening at those game rooms.
According to County Commissioner Jason Corley, at least four have opened up since the start of the pandemic alone, but game rooms are only legal as long as cash is not the prize.
“When you go into a game room and play a slot machine or an eight-liner or something like that, there is no difference in you doing that than your kid getting tickets for skeeball and exchanging those for prizes at an arcade or a restaurant in Lubbock. But the problem is and where the illegal activity arises is when they start giving out cash prizes,” said Corley.
Since game rooms are not regulated by the TABC, they are not forced to close at any certain time.
When bars were forced to shut down because of the pandemic, game rooms started giving out free beers, attracting more customers but causing residents COVID and traffic concerns.
“Apparently, they are open 24/7. There are just about as many cars there in the morning from 6:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. as there are in the evening,” said Pam Sumrall, who lives close to the game rooms off the Slaton highway.
However, it is not just increased traffic that has caused the area problems.
“I’m not convinced that even though game rooms are legal in the state of Texas, that all the activities that are happening there are, and that’s a concern,” said Sumrall.
Corley said there have also been reports of some of these game rooms participating in illegal activities such as drug dealing, prostitution, or giving cash as a prize.
All of which can have an impact on the surrounding communities.
“The poor just get poorer, and it’s just not good for your friends and neighbors. You may have someone who doesn’t have a whole lot of money to begin with who thinks they are going to make it big, and they gamble that money away.
“Most of these game rooms can do $25,000 a month pretty easily, and that’s a lot of money to just come straight out of your economy. That comes straight out of people’s paychecks, that’s the money people pay their rent with or spend on their kids,” said Corley.
Sumrall hopes some restrictions can be put in place soon to prevent any traffic accident or illegal activity.
“To start with, we can set open and close times. I think that would make a tremendous difference or could. I mean, if you own the property, you have the right to do business as you see fit I understand that, but I think we have to look at public safety,” said Sumrall.
Going forward, Corley hopes the local government can work with game room business owners to make sure everything is above board.
“If you have any illegal activity that may or may not be going on inside your establishment, please work to help us keep that from happening. It’s not a good thing for our areas. It’s not what we want in our neighborhoods,” said Corley.
Police have been patrolling the area and are on the watch for any illegal activity that may occur.