The state of Texas has a long and complicated history with gambling. Although the most popular game in poker, Texas Hold ’em, is named after the state, there is no gambling specifically legal in The Lone Star State.
But there’s still a rich appetite for gambling by Texans. With no legal access to do so, other than traveling out of the state, game rooms of questionable legality have popped up all over the state. Most operate in a legal gray area of the law, as the Texas Constitution does not specifically outlaw most of the slots-style machines.
Why are game rooms in Texas raided by law enforcement?
For a lot of law enforcement officials, however, there is no gray area. Raids of game rooms have become commonplace in Texas. According to police, the goal of the raids is to eliminate illegal gambling. They give three main reasons why game rooms have to be busted up.
- To protect players from fraud
- To secure unregulated gaming machines and money that is not taxed
- To protect citizens from more serious illegal activities that go hand in hand with many gambling halls
Interestingly, the debate over whether poker rooms are legal continues, while the legality of game rooms seems to be already decided. Similar to September, there were several raids of gaming rooms across Texas in October.
Two Andrews game rooms searched led to charges
At 11 p.m. on Oct. 5 in Andrews, law enforcement officers executed search warrants to investigate two separate game rooms. Andrews is near the New Mexico border southwest of Lubbock.
The Andrews County Sheriff’s Office performed a joint operation alongside the Violent Fugitive Task Force, which includes law enforcement officials from the Odessa Police Department, Midland Police Department and Texas Department of Public Safety. Their targets were the Black Gold Game Room at 107 NW 9th and also 1106 Game Room located at 1106 SW Mustang.
The ensuing investigation includes criminal charges at both businesses. Each one is being charged with gambling promotion and money laundering.
The Andrews District Attorney’s Office has not announced specific charges yet.
Houston woman arrested for running game room
In Houston, a woman is being held on a bond of just $100 for allegedly running an illegal gaming room. She was arrested on Oct. 16.
Salina Nguyen was investigated by Constable Mark Herman’s Office, which conducted a search on her property. The investigation began after reports of illegal gambling tipped off authorities. The location in question is in the 11200 block of Veterans Memorial Drive.
Law enforcement officials reportedly discovered 54 altered slots-type machines, documents that prove illegal gambling was taking place at the location and $6,257 during the search. That led to charges against Nguyen, including possession of gambling device equipment/paraphernalia.
Port Arthur man arrested after investigation of illegal gambling
A man in Port Arthur was arrested for suspected illegal gambling on Oct. 18. Port Arthur is south of Beaumont near the Louisiana border.
Port Arthur Police arrested Thang Van Nguyen, 40, a game room employee at the Dollar Supreme Game Room. This arrest is a part of a bigger investigation into illegal gaming activities at the business, located at 3637 Twin City Highway.
Nguyen was charged with gambling promotion. The misdemeanor carries a sentence of up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $4,000.
Port Arthur Police Sgt. Ahmaal Bodden said no other arrests have been made.
Four arrests made in Bexar County raid
A gambling bust on Oct. 19 took place in Bexar County. Four people were arrested and thousands of dollars was confiscated. The city of San Antonio is in Bexar County.
The raid in the 6300 block of Montgomery Drive took place at 4 p.m. Law enforcement said several players, four employees and also a security guard were on the premises at the time of the raid.
The four employees were arrested and face multiple charges, including Keeping a Gambling Place and Engaging in Organized Crime, a felony. Police have not identified the people who were arrested. More than $20,000 was seized.
It was the second time the business had been raided. It was under new management but was using the same security service.
According to Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, many of the players were older and retired. He said these establishments are preying on the older generation in the area.
“The issue with these places – and this was certainly the case today – many times, they prey upon the folks that are living in the area of a fixed income. Many times, the customer base is older or retired folks, elderly folks, and that’s exactly what we found here today.”
Alleged illegal gambling and prostitution ring found in Bastrop
A raid on Oct. 11 in Bastrop supposedly uncovered prostitution as well. Bastrop is southeast of Austin.
Arrests were made in a suspected gambling and prostitution ring that was unearthed in Bastrop after a six-month investigation.
The Bastrop County Sheriff’s Department arrested two people – Ameena Bhaidani and Joshua Lovett – for allegedly being in possession of gambling devices as well as engaging in organized criminal activity.
Two men were arrested after a monthslong investigation into illegal gambling and prostitution in Bastrop. Now authorities say more arrests are coming. https://t.co/2B6uplyEvZ
— KVUE News (@KVUE) October 13, 2023
The raids were conducted by Bastrop County deputies and the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission authorities on two locations that sit next to each other near Highway 95: Zoo Market and Delco Market. The goal was to find illegal gambling devices, but lots of cash and a couple non-firearm weapons were also supposedly found in the raids.
The investigation is expected to lead to more arrests and is still ongoing.
October raids come on the heels of multiple raids in September
In September, there were also multiple raids and investigations that led to charges and arrests.
There were around a dozen alleged gambling rooms targeted by law enforcement in September across the state. Those investigations led to the confiscation of many suspected illegal slot machines, thousands of dollars of cash and dozens of arrests. The locations included:
- Sullivan City