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Judge denies two game rooms’ requests to reopen

September 18, 2018

RAYMONDVILLE — Preferential treatment?

A judge yesterday denied two Sebastian game rooms their requests to reopen.

The decision came about five weeks after another judge granted four eight-liner arcades their requests for temporary restraining orders, allowing them to continue doing business despite a tough, new Willacy County ordinance that led all of Sebastian’s game rooms to shut down.

Visiting state District Judge J. Bonner Dorsey denied the Lucky A’s Game Room and the Lone Star Game Room their requests for temporary injunctions, setting an Oct. 11 pre-trial hearing in 197 th State District Court.

On Oct. 13, state District Judge Migdalia Lopez granted the Silver Star Game Room, Silver Express Game Room, La Victoria Game Room and the Silver Outpost their requests for temporary restraining orders, allowing them to reopen until their cases go to trial.

In all six cases, the game rooms’ attorneys argued their clients would suffer “irreparable” harm if they were not allowed to do business.

After yesterday’s hearing, attorney Daniel Sanchez, representing the Lucky A’s and Lone Star game rooms, said the court had given preferential treatment to the four game rooms allowed to continue operations.

“ What the county wants to do is give them preference,” Sanchez, a former Cameron County commissioner, told reporters near the courtroom door. “They want to pick and choose what game rooms make money in this county.”

Sanchez also argued the county ordinance regulating the game rooms in the vast unincorporated area, denied his clients their due process rights.

Ordinance led to shut downs

After its approval in February, the ordinance led Sebastian’s eight game rooms to shut down, giving them the opportunity to re-apply for permits to reopen their businesses.

“ We spent a lot of money fixing the building,” Shan Mohammad Butt, owner of the Lone Star, said after yesterday’s hearing, referring to his attempt to comply with the ordinance.

However, the county denied the Lone Star’s permit because San Patricio County officials had failed to file the dismissals of Butt’s criminal charges related to possession of eight-liner machines.

Sanchez also said the county denied the Lucky A’s application because it failed to list the names of the eight-liner machines’ owners, Sanchez said after the hearing.

In accordance with the ordinance, the owners of the Lucky A’s and Lone Star game rooms filed amended applications, providing Willacy County authorities with updated information correcting any problems with their applications.

However, the county also denied the amended applications, Sanchez said.

“ It’s almost like a rubber stamp,” Sanchez said of the county’s denials. “Due process has basically been thrown out the window.”

Hoping for good results

The Lucky A’s and Lone Star game rooms each seek $100,000 in damages, court costs and attorney fees.

“ We really don’t want to go after the county for damages and this county can’t really afford damages,” Sanchez told the judge.

The Lucky A’s and Lone Star are the fifth and sixth game rooms to sue the county as a result of the new ordinance.

How we got here

On Oct. 13, Lopez granted the Silver Star Game Room, Silver Express Game Room, La Victoria Game Room and the Silver Outpost their requests for temporary restraining orders.

As a result, the four game rooms reopened and continue to operate until their case goes to trial.

Earlier this month, attorney Ricardo Morado, representing Willacy County, requested the case be moved to federal court because due process arguments constitute federal claims.

The four game rooms are demanding the county pay damages of $50,000 to $2 million.

A federal court hearing for those cases has been set for Dec. 27.

fdelvalle@valleystar.com

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