Odessa County’s City Council and the Ector County commissioners revealed that they are in the process of amending their game room ordinances.
Council members and commissioners have expressed their concern about the explosion of game rooms in the last couple of years. According to them, these game rooms bring unwanted elements to the community and take away money from the poor and elderly. They also suggested that some game rooms ar engaged in illegal activities.
Game Rooms Not Causing an Increase in Priority Calls
Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis and Odessa Police Department (OPD) Department Chief Mike Gerke revealed that the game room are not at the top of their priority list. Both agency said that the game rooms are not causing an increase in Priority Calls, or calls that require immediate response due their violent nature.
From April 2020 to April 2022, the OPD received a total of 440 calls to different game rooms while the ECSO responded to 120 calls with only 30% of the said calls requiring a report. Calls that required reports include robberies, burglaries, drugs, and stolen vehicles. Calls not responded include alarms being set off, traffic stops, and police officers checking out suspicious persons and vehicles.
Of the 61 games rooms, five did not call the police during the two-year period. Meanwhile, several had fewer than 20 called during that span. Meanwhile, 16% of the OPD’s game room calls came from the Palace Game Room on East Highway 80. 72 calls were responded by the police including 22 which require a report.
Some Game Rooms are Engaged in Illegal Gambling
While authorities are not alarmed by game-room related crime rates, the OPD says that there is little doubt that some of the rooms are engaged in illegal gambling and they have the reason they believe so.
In three instances in December 2019, March 2021, and May 2021, undercover officers from the OPD were provided cash instead of credits while playing at certain game rooms. District Attorney Bobby Bland determined that the currency was contraband being used in a felony act and subjected the money to seizure and forfeiture. As a result, OPD seized more than $125,000 during the three operations.
Right now, there are four individuals in the Ector County District Court awaiting trial for engaging in organized criminal activity in relation to those undercover police operations. Las September, a fifth defendant named Nelson Keith Fleming, was sentenced to two concurrent prison sentences of 120 months and three years of probation.