Texas Law Enforcement Raids Crack Down On Illegal Gambling In September

Written By Dan Holmes on October 4, 2023
Photo of police cars and Texas and slot machine logos for story on illegal gambling raids.

Texas law enforcement officials conducted several raids in September of suspected Illegal gambling rooms.

Illicit gaming activity can be found across Texas, in small towns and large urban areas. In a state void of casinos or sports betting, police and state officials stay busy cracking down on illegal gambling. September was particularly busy.

Authorities targeted at least a dozen suspected gambling halls last month, all across the state. Loads of illegal gambling devices were collected, thousands of dollars in cash was confiscated and dozens of arrests were made in September.

Despite overwhelming support from residents for legal casinos in Texas, lawmakers continue to stifle all efforts to legalize casino gambling. Sports betting is also not legal in the second-most populous state in the country. With more than 29 million citizens, Texas would be the largest betting market in the nation if it were to pass gaming legislation.

Raids taking place is small towns and large cities across Texas

Along with commercial casinos and sports betting, Texas online casinos also remain illegal. Bills to legalize both casinos and sports betting died at the Texas Capitol last session. The soonest lawmakers could again consider gaming legislation is in 2025.

The state has various unregulated online gambling options, but these raids were focused on illegal brick-and-mortar gambling.

Last month, raids on gaming rooms were executed in several towns and cities.

  • Elsa
  • Houston
  • Sullivan City
  • Tomball (on Aug. 30)
  • Vidor

Authorities reportedly seized dozens of illegal slot machines and other gaming devices in multiple raids that the Texas Attorney General’s Office has been eager to publicize.

In a raid on an establishment that housed several illegal slot machines and table game machines at Aldine Westfield Road near Houston, authorities took possession of approximately $12,000 in cash. Other raids saw law enforcement add more than $50,000 from illegal gaming to that total.

Authorities say they are seeking to eliminate illegal gaming for three main reasons.

  • To protect consumers from fraud
  • To secure illegal gaming machines and money that translates into non-taxable revenue
  • To ensure that no citizen is exposed to other illegal activities that often take place at such locations

Authorities routinely point out that illegal gaming rooms are often operated by individuals who are involved in other criminal endeavors, such as money laundering, weapons and illegal drugs.

Town of Elsa trying to create legal gaming environment

During the many raids over the last several weeks, authorities are making numerous arrests, and seizing loads of cash and illegal gaming machines. Elsa, where one of the raids took place, has been fighting back by passing local ordinances to allow gaming facilities with more than 50 machines. The community is seeking only larger operators, shunning small-time operations that may be attached to illegal activities.

Leaders in Elsa say if they regulate gaming activity, licensed operators will be subject to oversight, which will protect consumers. That’s the same philosophy entire states are taking elsewhere.

The raid in Vidor, which took place in the first week of September, was sparked after an undercover teenager working with police was offered marijuana by a salesperson. A raid on that establishment uncovered illegal gaming machines and cash.

Nine people were arrested in Sullivan City on Sept. 13 when local authorities working in alliance with the Texas Attorney’s Office raided The Fireball City game room, which was located in a strip mall. They found illegal slot machines and learned that customers were being paid in cash.

There is a $5 limit that can be paid out in gaming activity

In Texas, no gaming activity, not even a friendly poker game, can pay any amount above $5. Authorities are focused on finding sophisticated illegal gaming rooms with slot machines and other games, said Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra.

“My warning to operators of gambling establishments is: Sooner or later, the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office is gonna come knocking on your door.”

Law enforcement urges citizens to report suspected illegal gambling taking place in their communities.

Photo by Shutterstock / Illustration by PlayTexas
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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is a contributor for PlayTX with plenty of experience under his belt. Dan has written three books about sports and previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. He also has extensive experience covering the launch of sports betting in other states, including Ohio, Massachusetts and Maryland. Currently, Dan is residing in Michigan with his family.

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