Tommy Mann Jr. – For The Record

One local community has made some minor changes to an ordinance which should reduce or prevent any future issues.

The City of West Orange repealed its previous coin-operated machines ordinance on Monday evening and replaced it with a new ordinance which goes into effect immediately. The purpose of the repeal and then approval of the new coin-operated machine ordinance was to make a slight addition of wording.

“We just needed to make the addition of the wording to include information on the FBI and Texas Department of Public Safety, which are the agencies handling our criminal records checks,” said Mike Stelly, chief of the West Orange Police Department and the Public Works Director. “It was rejected initially because it did not reference the Texas Government Code, which it now includes.”

The additional wording includes the information that “the background check shall be conducted through a fingerprint check. The fingerprints will be submitted to the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for criminal records check. All fingerprint checks will be done in compliance with the Texas Government Codes, specifically section 411.087 and 411.122.”

The City of West Orange adopted the coin-operated machine ordinance in May in order to regulate any businesses which had coin-operated machines and gaming devices which offers players the chance to obtain anything of value, the award of which is determined solely or partially by chance, even though possibly accompanied by skill.

The ordinance requires the owner, operator or lessee of an “amusement redemption machine game room” to obtain an annual inspection and a regulatory enforcement license for $1,000 for each such machine, as well as an occupation tax payment of $15 for each amusement redemption machine.

Presently only such business has been reported within West Orange city limits and reportedly may have closed in the past two weeks, according to Stelly.

The location of the coin-operated machines must meet all building and fire code standards. Also, the game room operator must be age 18 or older, and the location is limited to no more than 50 such machines. All machines must be permitted and licensed as stated above.

Many such facilities are known for their secluded locations and black-out windows, but this ordinance states every game room shall have “transparent, unobstructed windows or open space on at least one side so that the area is open to view by the general public passing by on a public street.”

Any such establishment will not be issued a permit or license unless it is at least 200 feet away, in a direct line from any public entrance, to the property line of any church, school or hospital within the city limits.

Violators who are deemed guilty of a misdemeanor charge of this ordinance may be fined as much as $500 per machine, per day for each violation. Also, any machine which is determined to not have been licensed or a permit submitted for such a machine may be sealed by a city official and charged a $25 non-payment fee before the machine is unsealed.

The regulatory enforcement license and tax permit will expire on January 31 of each year, according to the ordinance, and is not transferable. The fees are not prorated and expire if the business is sold, closes or the permit is revoked.