Fort Worth

Fort Worth council to vote on game room fees

Patrons cover their faces during a Sheriffs Dept. raid of the J&S Game Room in south Fort Worth on Thursday, March 5, 2009.
Patrons cover their faces during a Sheriffs Dept. raid of the J&S Game Room in south Fort Worth on Thursday, March 5, 2009. Star-Telegram archives

The costs of operating a game room in Fort Worth would increase under a proposed licensing fee, with a possible minimum of $780 to operate a single gaming machine.

A proposed annual application and licensing fee costs $500 per business; the fee per machine would be $160, and a certificate of occupancy inspection fee is proposed for $120.

If game room owners break the rules, the costs get steeper under the proposed fee structure.

In addition to paying fines, which Code Compliance Director Brandon Bennett has said could be upward of $2,000-$4,000 per day depending on the violation, game room owners would have to pay a $200 noncompliance reinspection fee and a $100 fee per machine to reopen the games of chance.

The fee structure, which the City Council is set to vote on Tuesday, comes as the city is squaring off against game room operators in three lawsuits filed against the city by owners and game distributors.

The parties in the lawsuits, filed from Jan. 16 to 26, and the city have requested that the cases be consolidated into one lawsuit to be heard by state District Judge David Evans.

The claims in the suits are similar, including that the city’s ordinance is pre-empted by state law, which already regulates the games of chance; that the ordinance is needlessly restrictive, including not allowing minors on the premises; that it constitutes a taking of income and investments; and that the city cannot enforce the strict regulations through zoning.

Under the proposed ordinance, game rooms are allowed to operate only in industrial-zoned areas of the city, and they are not allowed within 1,000 feet of a residential area, a church, a school or a hospital. They had to be marked with the words game room and have at least one unobstructed window allowing a view of all the machines.

Bennett, who did not return calls seeking comment Friday, has said the city is still enforcing the ordinance.

Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984

Twitter: @catyhirst

If you go

The Fort Worth City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the City Council Chamber of City Hall, on Throckmorton Street.

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