ECSO makes multiple arrests for game room violations

Throughout the month of June, the Ector County Sheriff’s Office arrested three people on game room violations.
Violations ranged from working without a permit to unauthorized workers using keys to open money trays.
Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis said during a phone interview the punishment for each violation, a class A misdemeanor, isn’t enough to deter people.
"They need to make it a crime that will hurt them freedom wise and hurt them in their pocketbook too," Griffis said.
Intentionally or knowingly operating a game room violation is a class A misdemeanor, which is punishable for a fine up to $4,000, one year of jail time, or both.
Griffis said he has heard of game room operators making $4,000 to $5,000 to $10,000 per day.
Griffis also explained that ECSO monitors game rooms constantly.
"The fines that are related to the punishment are much less than what they are making," Griffis said. "There’s no deterrent for them to keep operating.
"The penalties don’t outweigh the profits. They just reopen later."
Thu Van Pham, 49, was arrested and charged June 8 for intentionally or knowingly operating a game room violation, a class A misdemeanor, after he was reportedly unlocking the pad locks and opening the currency trays on all of the game machines.
That violation happened at Reno Game Room located at 8401 N. Andrews Highway, an ECSO affidavit detailed.
ECSO deputies saw Pham in possession of the building and game machine keys, the affidavit stated. Pham stated against his own penal interest that he doesn’t have a game room badge and isn’t a registered employee through ECSO.
Pham had one bond totaling $1,000 and posted bail on June 8, jail records show.
Phuoc Pham, 49, was arrested and charged Monday for intentionally or knowingly operating a game room violation, a class A misdemeanor, after he reportedly wasn’t wearing his game room badge while on duty.
This violation happened at Trip 7 game room located at 2617 N. Tripp Ave., an ECSO affidavit stated. Trip 7 game room also reportedly had five wine bottles while it wasn’t in possession of a liquor license.
Phuoc Pham had one bond totaling $1,000 and posted bail on Monday, jail records show.
Catrina Harris, 27, was arrested Tuesday for intentionally or knowingly operating a game room violation, a class A misdemeanor, after she was reportedly working at Cassy’s Game Room without a permit, a county clerk complaint detailed.
The complaint was reportedly filed May 29. Harris laid out time and she was release on Tuesday, jail records show.
Odessa Police Department spokesperson Cpl. Steve LeSueur said compliance checks are done on game rooms several times per year. He added officers on patrol will execute those compliance checks.
"We also follow up on tips and complaints which are usually investigated by the narcotics and vice unit," LeSueur said. "It can result in much bigger investigations."
During the 86th Texas Legislative session, representatives acknowledged the regulation of game rooms in the form of House Bill 892. Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill and it will go into effect on Sept. 1.
House Bill 892 would seek to address this issue by helping counties prevent illegal gambling activity by broadening the applicability of certain provisions governing county regulation of game rooms, according to the bill authored by Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin.
Ben Lancaster, the legislative director for State Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, said over the phone that Landgraf voted for the bill.
"I think it’s important for law enforcement to have a tool at their disposal to crackdown on illegal activity that has a detrimental impact on our community," Landgraf said.
LeSueur said he can’t speculate on changes to monitoring game rooms inside city limits until the bill officially goes into effect at the beginning of September.
"Until it goes into effect, investigations and compliance checks will remain the same," LeSueur said.