City ready to put pressure on gambling halls

Odessa City Council is betting that the new measures they plan to adopt next week will make it harder for gambling hall operators to stay in business and discourage others from moving to the city.

During their working session on Tuesday, council members enthusiastically adopted several proposed ordinance amendments that will significantly limit when and where gambling halls can operate. Mayor Javier Joven said council will vote on the changes at its October 12 meeting.

“We’ve all had several calls about (playrooms),” Joven said on Tuesday. “In my opinion, if anyone wants to blow their Social Security check at one of these places, it’s their right.

But Joven added that many of the 23 gambling halls currently operating in Odessa conduct illegal operations by paying customers cash prizes and are hotbeds for illegal drugs and other criminal activity.

“Everyone knows the reasons why they proliferate,” Joven said.

Under the proposed amended municipal ordinance, arcades would be prohibited from being located within 1,000 feet of another gaming establishment, church, educational institution, a health facility, a public building or the boundary of a residential zoning district, planning director Randy Brinlee told council.

That proposal may need to be changed to 300 feet, which is state law, warned city attorney Natasha Brooks, who said she would have a response by the time the vote was taken. advice next week.

A whereabouts exemption will be granted to all gaming operations that can prove that the company operated on the same site, and under the same name and ownership before December 1, 2021, Brinlee said.

Police Chief Michael Gerke said the proposed changes would close several loopholes that several local gambling hall operators have used to thwart police.

Gerke noted that police had closed several arcades in recent years, only to see them reopen under a different person’s name a few days later.

The amendment to the proposed ordinance will also only allow the opening of new gambling halls in areas already zoned for light industrial and heavy industrial zones. Businesses will also need 30 paved parking spaces and one space for every 100 square feet of area over 2,000 square feet.

The hours of operation of the games room would also be limited from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to midnight Friday through Sunday, Brinlee said.

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