Residents voice concerns over eight-liner arcades

RAYMONDVILLE — Residents like Stanley Gonzales want to speak up about the eight-liner arcades popping up around Willacy County.

So tonight, county commissioners will hold a public hearing into game rooms opening in the county’s unincorporated areas.

Commissioners asked for input after residents petitioned the county to pass laws regulating eight-liners that have opened around Sebastian, resident Stanley Gonzales said yesterday.

“It’s a law enforcement issue,” Gonzales, a retired college instructor living outside Lyford said. “It’s not right not to have any regulations.”

Gonzales said he and other residents petitioned commissioners to approve an ordinance regulating eight-liner arcades.

After a tough Raymondville ordinance pushed most eight-liner arcades out of that town last year, more game rooms are opening in unincorporated areas such as Sebastian, where Willacy County does not have an ordinance to regulate them.

So far, about eight game rooms have opened up in the Sebastian area, Gonzales said.

Willacy County Sheriff Spence said he has requested commissioners approve an ordinance regulating game rooms.

“It gives you a little control,” Spence said.

Gonzales said he is concerned eight-liners could again become the targets of armed robberies.

Last November, authorities arrested three Brownsville men after they allegedly tried to rob Sebastian’s Silver Outpost amid gunfire.

“We get criminal elements from outside the county coming in,” Gonzales said.

Spence said many cars parked outside game rooms bare out-of-town license plates.

Some players, he said, are coming to Willacy County’s game rooms instead of taking longer drives to legal casinos.

“All day long, you have people walking along the street,” Gonzales said. “It’s created traffic problems and issues Sebastian never had. They’re in residential areas. They’re in neighborhoods where there are children.”

Gonzales said he presented commissioners with copies of a tough ordinance the county’s previous administration rejected.

In October 2014, then-Willacy County Judge John F. Gonzales Jr. pushed for the proposed ordinance after it passed in Harris County.

But in a meeting before audience members with ties to game rooms, Gonzales scrapped the proposed ordinance after at least three county commissioners opposed the plan.

Within three months, a game room opened in Raymondville Plaza, before eight-liners began popping up across town and in Lyford.