City officials are exploring a request to permit what would be the very first “sweepstakes game room” to begin in Harlingen.
Apparao Raguthu has applied for a specific use permit to start the game room, considered an adult company, at the Harlingen Hotel and Events Center, 6779 W. Expressway 83, which is in a general retail community. He stated the “operation will fully comply with state law and local requirements.”
Raguthu informed city commissioners Wednesday that he has actually formed a nonprofit organization and that 5 percent of gross profits would be donated to a charity called Skyeward Bound Ranch.
He added that next week he will proclaim the name of the company that will in fact operate the game affair when he has finalized the proper documentation.
Attorney Rick Rodriguez, previously a Harlingen mayor, stated this week that he exemplifies the owners of the establishment.
The application refers to Skyeward Bound Ranch, yet Rodriguez pointed out that the charity will certainly be changed.
“We want it to be the Harlingen Boys & Girls Club,” Rodriguez stated.
The City Commission collectively tabled action on the request Wednesday evening, expressing issues. Commissioners stated they had unanswered inquiries, required direction from legal counsel and wished to view paperwork pertaining to the proposed company, featuring its business as a non-profit organization.
“We haven’t seen a lot of things in this case,” Assistant City Attorney Rick Bilbie advised the commission.
Gerald Gathright, executive director of the Harlingen Boys & Girls Club, said Wednesday evening that he had not heard of the sweepstakes game proposal or any kind of chance of the Boys & Girls Club obtaining any type of funding.
Nevertheless, Gathright said anything relating to the concern would need to be taken into consideration by the club’s board of directors.
“I will say that Rick Rodriguez has always been a good friend of the Boys & Girls Club,” Gathright pointed out. “I’m sure he would have our best interests at heart.”
District 5 Commissioner Joey TreviÃ±o said the application would rely on “some issues that have to be worked out.”
State regulation differentiates between a “sweepstakes” game room and an eight-liner hall, the commissioner added.
The city attorney’s office and other departments, such as Planning and Zoning, assessed numerous facets of the application, he pointed out.
TreviÃ±o said the Planning and Zoning Department authorized the game hall and, “if the business complies with state law as a ‘sweepstakes game hall,’ then we’ll have to approve it.”
Continuous random police checks would be called for, city records state.
“This has the approval by the state of Texas,” Raguthu pointed out of the sweepstakes game room he seeks to operate. “Everything will be according to the rules,” he stated.
The operation will additionally abide by city and Cameron County laws, he stated.
In the course of Wednesday evening’s City Commission meeting, District 3 Commissioner Mike Mezmar stated he believed it was peculiar that other sweepstakes game rooms “funnel” charity proceeds to the same charity, Skyeward Bound Ranch in Fort Worth, although its headquarters are in El Paso.
“Just curious that’s all … It raises questions about this charity,” Mezmar added.
Rodriguez showed up prior to the commission with Raguthu and informed the commission that he had told Raguthu to choose a local charity. Rodriguez and Raguthu maintained that sweepstakes game rooms have been “sanctioned” by the state and the commission showed that it wished to see evidence of this. Rodriguez said that there currently are 12 game rooms in Cameron County.
Yet Mayor Chris Boswell indicated that this would be the very first in Harlingen. “Being first has its disadvantages and advantages,” Boswell said.
District 1 Commissioner Danny Castillo conveyed problems concerning feasible loopholes in the regulation that could be “manipulated to provide a venue or activity that would otherwise become illegal.”
District 4 Commissioner Jerry Prepejchal voiced worry regarding safety, and stated that if the game room would be opened 24 hrs a day as proposed, then safety should be supplied constantly.
The legislation provides solely non-cash merchandise awards valued at $ 5 or less, according to papers filed with the application.
Although initial plays on the machines, which mimic eight-liner machines, are complimentary, the legislation permits regular “contributions” to the game parlor of $ 5, $ 10 with a max contribution of $ 100 a day, Raguthu stated.
Raguthu added he will guarantee that no unlawful action occurs on the property.
“We haven’t had eight-liners for several years, since before I came into office,” TreviÃ±o said. “This ‘sweepstakes’ is a new loophole.”
A statement from Fire Marshal Danny Warner, featured in the City Commission agenda packet, says that on July 7 “a fire inspector found that there were 30 game stations already in place while he was there to verify the absence of an existing fire sprinkler system.”
Raguthu pointed out Wednesday he has actually had fire sprinkler businesses check the building and make proposals for work to be done when the application is authorized by the city.
An additional agenda item from Ramiro Gonzales, city environmental health director, states the establishment meets health department demands however a food permit will be required.
Raguthu stated he has submitted an application for a city food permit, however only pre-packaged meals and treats will be served and no cooking will be done on the property.
The game room will be operated in an independent room beside the bar-lounge, Rodriguez stated.
Rodriguez stated that, although some people may not like electronic game halls, they are not unlawful.
“It’s kind of like a bingo hall,” the attorney pointed out of an “adult sweepstakes gaming hall.” “Why do they allow bingo?” Rodriguez inquired.
“People work hard for their money and they should be able to do what they want with it,” he stated.
“They are taxed and 5 percent of whatever they make goes to charity,” Rodriguez pointed out of sweepstakes game halls.
Powered by Facebook Comments