Cities Review their Take on 8-Liners

Cameron County Emergency Manager Humberto Barrera

Not a car in sight at an 8-liner along Business 77 in San Benito, and just down the road, the same story.

The same story at the 777" 8-liner. San Benito city ordinance allows for these type of establishments within city limits, however, the payouts allegedly being handed out at some of these, is illegal in Texas.

Cameron County Emergency Manager Humberto Barrera said currently San Benito, Santa Rosa, Port Isabel and Brownsville allow game rooms within city limits. He adds some have inquired about revising those ordinances to possibly prohibit them.

Harlingen commissioners also approved a moratorium for six months to review their ordinance on the issue.

"The (machines) themselves are not illegal, it's the payout that's illegal, Barrera said. The way the current law is written and the way they operate is illegal - some 8-liner owners may be upset about it but that's something they need to talk to the state (law-makers) about and have them change the law."

San Benito Mayor Joe Hernandez tells Action 4 the commission is planning to review their ordinance on game rooms.

Brownsville Planning Director Ramiro Gonzalez said he is requesting commissioners approve a one-year moratorium that would prohibit any new permits to be issued for game rooms.

Gonzalez adds the city wants to rework their zoning ordinance to have better control of where these establishments are allowed and what requirements they need to abide by, in order to operate.

One possibility, he said, is that current game rooms would be grandfathered but they would have to provide armed security.

Barrera said that after Operation Bishop, where authorities at the local, state and federal level raided and shut down five game rooms simultaneously, cities are working more closely with the county to carry out District Attorney Luis Saenz TMs goal to shut down all illegal establishments.

"These personnel that were assigned to the project from these respective cities, have shown an interest in getting rid of the 8-liner problem that they have within their city limits, Barrera said. So we're going to continue working as a team, whether it's inside the city limits or in the county."

Officials want these illegal establishments shut down not only because they attract crime but also because it's leaving many people broke.

"When you bring that into a county that could use more money not less, and you take away 300 million dollars (in revenue) a year, that's a combination for disaster," Barrera said.