Fort Worth council adopts new regulations on game rooms

By Scott Nishimura

Fort Worth City Council members on Tuesday unanimously approved new regulations on game rooms to make easier to curb illegal operations that neighbors say cause crime, reduce quality of life and property values, and spread urban blight.

Council members approved the ordinance change unanimously on a motion by Council member Danny Scarth, whose East Side district is home to numerous game rooms.

“It’s very easy to tell” legally-operated game rooms from ones running illicit operations, Scarth said. “It’s not in a dark room, it’s not behind the barber shop, you don’t have to know somebody to get in.”

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The changes, made to the city’s zoning ordinance:

  • No game room can be located within 300 hundred feet of a one- or two-family residential district, church, school, or hospital, measured from property line to property line;
  • Game room entrances must carry signs that bear the word “Game Room” in two-and-a-half-inch block letters and that are legible from 25 feet;
  • Game rooms must have transparent glass in at least one window at least three feet wide and three feet tall, and can’t block the view inside through windows by drawn shades, blinds, partitions, tint, or anything else;
  • The sale, possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages is barred, unless the establishment is licensed;
  • Every game room can be no larger than 2,000 square feet in size.

Game room operators who said their businesses are legal challenged the ordinance.

“I think this ordinance is designed to eliminate gamerooms, not to regulate them,” Lisa Anderson Scott, who said she’s operated game rooms for 10 years, told City Council members.

“My game rooms are very nice,” she said “It’s like any other business. It depends on the owners and how they run the business…We live there, we generate a lot of revenue.”

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Speaking for a large group of East Side property owners who packed the City Council chambers in an emotional hearing a few weeks ago, Michael Stanford praised the council for the ordinance. He also asked the game room owners who appeared before the council whether the ordinance would put them out of business.