Fort Worth

Fort Worth’s game room ordinance faces 3rd lawsuit

A third lawsuit was filed against the city Monday in an effort to stop the enforcement of an ordinance regulating game rooms.

AFAD Investments, which owns, buys, sells, leases and exhibits gaming machines, is suing the city on two grounds: that the ordinance is invalid because it pre-empts state law and that the ordinance is regulation that deprives the owners of income. The company is seeking a temporary restraining order to stop enforcement.

Code Director Brandon Bennett said the city will move forward with enforcement while the lawsuits play out in court.

“The losing side always has the option to file an appeal, and so you can’t just sit back and say, ‘Something is going to get resolved on Feb. 17th and be neat and pretty,’ and we move on.” Bennett said.

Bennett said no code compliance officers have issued citations yet — though they have issued violation notices and warnings. Owners in violation are expected to comply with the ordinance in 72 hours.

But at least two citations have been issued by Fort Worth police.

On Jan. 22, a business in the 3100 block of Lackland Road was cited for having a game room within 1,000 feet of a residential area; having the game room door locked during business hours; not having the machines in open view of the public; not having the business marked with game room numbers; and lack of posting the prohibition of people under age 18.

Another business, in the 4600 block of Benbrook Highway, was cited for the same reasons as well as exceeding the maximum for gaming machines, which is 30.

Already challenged twice in court, the ordinance has survived largely intact.

State District Judge Melody Wilkinson signed a temporary restraining order on Wednesday blocking the city from enforcing the licensing portion of the regulation for 10 specific machines across the city.

A request for another temporary restraining order was withdrawn in state District Judge David Evan’s court Thursday, when city attorneys and the attorney representing game room owners on Camp Bowie Boulevard West agreed to return to court in two weeks for an evidentiary hearing.

The game room zoning and licensing ordinances were unanimously approved by the City Council in the fall after members expressed concerns about crimes that sometimes happen in and near game rooms and about the difficulty of investigating illegal gaming.

Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984

Twitter: @catyhirst