It’s been a busy start to 2024 for law enforcement officers in Texas tasked with taking down illegal gambling operations.
In the first few weeks of the new year, police in Beaumont, Clifton and Corpus Christi conducted raids on suspected illegal gambling operations.
While there are three Texas tribal casinos in the Lone Star State, all forms of commercial casino gambling and sports betting are illegal in Texas.
Police arrest armed customer at raid in Beaumont
The Beaumont raid was Jan. 3. According to KBMT-TV (12News Now), police executed a search warrant at a game room in the 8000 block of College Street at about 11 a.m. that day. SWAT team members and the city’s fire department also took part. The raid resulted in “various evidence of promotion of gambling” and also cash, which authorities suspect was proceeds of illegal gambling.
One of the game room customers was armed with a handgun, according to the police report.
Police “expect to file charges, including engaging in organized criminal activity in the form of promotion of gambling and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon,” according to the report.
Clifton police intend to sell illegal machines at auction
In Clifton, as KCEN-TV (6News) reported, the Clifton Police Department made the rounds at three stores on Jan. 11, seizing 16 illegal gambling machines and hundreds of vapes and e-cigarettes. According to the article, “as of Sept. 1, 2023, it is illegal to sell vape items that have packaging that could be appealing to kids, and all three stores were carrying these items, selling them illegally.”
Police officers were disguised as customers to expose illegal gambling activity, according to the report.
“Undercover officers with Clifton PD were sent into these stores and were paid in cash on multiple occasions after winning on the video-slot machines. 6 News’ Baylee Bates spoke with Chief Chris Blanton about the incident and he said, ‘We will be seizing the machines, and if awarded to us by the courts, we will sell them at auction and the proceeds will be used to buy equipment for the department.’”
The report also noted that Clifton authorities would be obtaining arrest warrants for all three store owners, who “are also all being charged with civil penalties by the state” of at least $3,000.
Police confiscate $85K in raid of Corpus Christi game room
In Corpus Christi, also on Jan. 11, a months-long investigation into illegal gambling led to a raid at Player’s Lounge Game Room on the 3400 block of South Padre Island Drive and a home on the 8200 block of Olympic Drive.
KRIS-TV reported that police seized thousands of dollars.
“During their searches, detectives seized gambling equipment, over $85,000 in cash, one vehicle and a small amount of marijuana.”
That led to the arrest of a trio of suspects, ranging in age from 22 to 30. They face several charges, according to the report:
- Gambling promotion
- Keeping a gambling place
- Possession of a gambling device
- Engaging in organized criminal activity
- Money laundering
The latter two charges are state felonies, while the other charges are Class A misdemeanors.
Five customers in the game room at the time of the raid were cited with gambling, a Class C misdemeanor.