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Community leaders discuss gameroom operations in Ector County

Mayor Javier Joven addressed the Ector County Commissioners Court Thursday on what he says is an increase in gamerooms and the problems associated with them.

ODESSA, Texas — Gamerooms, if handled correctly, can operate legally in Texas. However, their existence creates a lot of controversy about legal loopholes and safety.

This is an issue leaders in Ector County are trying to tackle. Several things happened at Thursday's Ector County Commissioners Court meeting, but the most notable thing was the Mayor of Odessa, Javier Joven, calling attention to what he says is an increase in gamerooms in the county and problems he thinks they are creating.

"The city is supersized by the county in its authority to regulate the gamerooms," said Joven. "If we work hand-in-hand with the county, who has an extensive amount to regulate where municipalities are limited, then it would be easier to enforce an ordinance that is placed by the county."

Ector County Judge Debi Hays seemed to agree with Joven when he addressed the increase in gamerooms in the community.

"I kind of chuckled when you said Andrews Highway is becoming the Las Vegas Strip," said Hays during the meeting. "I travel that route going home. I started counting how many there were between the courthouse and my house, and it seems like every week there is a new one."

Now, the Mayor is asking for help when it comes to limiting gamerooms in town.

"No one is saying that they are going away," said Joven. "Basically, what the community is saying is that there is a proliferation, or too many. You go from one day to another, then all of the sudden there is a new one, and there's a new one. And they change names, and there is a reason for that."

Joven said crime is an issue often tied to the gamerooms, and when law enforcement agencies are short-staffed, the problem amplifies.

"When we are better staffed, our guys have time to run by and stop in and look in those gamerooms," said Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis. "Right now, we are very reactive, we are shorthanded about 25 or 30% short on patrol each shift. So we don't have time to do that."

Mayor Joven said he hopes to address the Odessa City Council after the holidays.

He hopes a plan is created at the beginning of next year between the city, the county and law enforcement to help limit the number of gamerooms and increase supervision. For now, nothing is set in stone.