In a judgement signed by Justice Luz Elena D. Chapa the Fourth Court of Appeals of San Antonio favored 15 people named in a lawsuit against the County of Starr.
The group consists of owners or former owners of eight-liner gaming businesses (Eric Hoyela, Jesus Oyela, Cynthia Arredondo, Emede Barrera, Jose Leon Garcia Jr., Edelmira Gomez, Jorge Solis Ester Madariaga, Maria Lamar Trevino and Monica Aguirre. In their original lawsuit where most of the owners were included, the group challenged a Starr County ordinance that regulated and taxed eight-liner gaming machines. They are asking that the money they paid in what they deem an illegal tax be returned to them. Their original filing was done on October 12, 2016
Discussion of imposing a fee to entertainment machines or maquinitas started in 2015. At the time the County Attorney Victor Canales Jr. and then Rio Grande City Mayor Ruben O. Villarreal vocalized their objection to possible fee. By February of 2015 County Judge Eloy Vera told valley news outlet, channel 4 that the County had made about $1.7 million dollars. Documentation from the County stated that the owners must comply with gambling laws that limit payouts to a $5 value. Yet the annual fee as reported by The Monitor, was of $500 per machine.
The lawsuit was dismissed on January 16th of 2018 because there was no written notice mailed to the county judge or county attorney within 30 days of the filing. Starr County Judge Eloy Vera was personally served in October 26th of 2016.
An appeal was filed stating that the judge was personally served. They used the fact that the county had contracted an attorney to represent the entity and that there was a timely response from the attorney as evidence that they had been informed of the lawsuit.
The group could have simply filed a new lawsuit but the time limitations would mean they could only recover payments from two years prior making a significant difference to the amount of money they could collect from the county. The attorney for the county cited it as the reason he favored a dismissal.
Having won an appeal, the lawsuit will go back to the trial court and the county is obligated to pay for the cost of the appeal.