SE Houston gameroom shuts its doors after 13 Undercover report

It was the scene of a murder during an illegal gambling operation. But its owner closed it down after a 13 Undercover report
October 10, 2013 8:21:49 PM PDT
Our 13 Undercover investigation into area gamerooms operating like illegal casinos, and the crime and violence they can attract, has raised concerns for many Houstonians living and working near these gamerooms. Now there's an update on one of those establishments featured in our investigation.

A southeast side gameroom operating next to a day care center has now closed its doors after our hidden cameras caught illegal gambling and an employee was recently murdered.

Bobby Jimenez is picking up his two-and-half-year-old-son Diego from a day care on Almeda Genoa, which sits just feet from the Monroe gameroom.

"You're son goes to this day care center, how do you feel now that that gameroom's closed?" we asked Jimenez.

"Well, I feel a lot safer now because. I mean my son, he plays outside and you got people being shot and robbed right here, just next door," he replied.

This is where our hidden cameras caught illegal gambling, and an employee was later shot to death during a robbery.

The owner of the Monroe gameroom has apparently had enough of the attention he's been getting after 13 Undercover's investigation and shut down the place.

The name has been scraped off the door and it hasn't been open since we reported it was reopening next to the day care.

"I'm glad, I'm glad. I hope that it stays that way and they decided to move somewhere else and not reopen next to us," the day care owner said.

The owner also wants to know how this gameroom was allowed to open up next to her day care center in the first place.

We took her question to the city of Houston's attorney.

"We can't because we don't have zoning in the city of Houston and state law doesn't authorize us to limit the distance of gamerooms to day cares, schools, churches, etc.," Feldman said.

Feldman says the city is doing its best to combat the proliferation of these illegal casinos, but claims the lawmakers in Austin aren't very helpful; and every time the city passes new ordinances to crack down, the gameroom operators sue to stop the restrictions.

"The city, in my view, is doing what it can with the tools that we have," Feldman said.

"All the gamerooms we've been involved in, not one of them has been legal," said Lt. Randy Tunches with the Harris County Sheriff's Office Vice Division.

The county appears to be having more luck getting new ways to fight the gamerooms outside city limits.

With approximately 300 gamerooms in the county, the sheriff's office has formed a task force that it says is cracking down on illegal casinos and even recently won a victory in Austin by getting a law passed allowing the county to regulate them, including zoning where they can and cannot be located.

"We're doing a very good job as far as striking them on the criminal side. What we want to do is attack them on the civil side as well," Tunches said. "So what these new ordinances will allow us to do is to regulate them to the point where they are nonexistent any more in Harris county."

Since our investigation, law enforcement sources say the city's gamerooms are now even harder to get into because of all the attention they've gotten.

But there's a renewed effort -- because of our series of reports -- by the Mayor's office and Houston police to crack down on the hundreds of illegal casinos across our city.

Find Brian on Facebook at ABC13BrianCollister or on Twitter at @BrianCollister

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