Deputies from the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office recently raided two suspected illegal gambling sites hidden in plain sight. Close to 60 eight-liner gambling machines were seized between the two raids in the San Antonio area.
Neighborhood residents surprised by raid
The latest raids come on the heels of raids of two suspected illegal gambling operations just a few weeks ago. Dozens of eight-liners were also collected in those raids.
In the latest raids, both conducted around 5 p.m. on Nov. 10, a total of 33 people were detained. One took place in the 2500 block of West Woodlawn Avenue, a residential neighborhood.
Resident Alphonso Santos arrived home on Nov. 10 to find flashing police lights in his neighborhood for the first time in the eight months he has lived there. He said there were two police cars at each end of the street. He said he had no idea that police were in the midst of a raid on one of the homes on his block.
Santos said he had witnessed the home being remodeled recently, but he never saw groups of people going in or out as if there was an illegal gambling operation located inside. Other neighbors told KSAT12 in San Antonio that people who were using the house had only been there for about a month. They said they had seen people coming and going from the house, but no one expected an illegal gambling business was in operation.
Stolen vehicle recovered during raid
In total, 18 people were arrested by the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office between employees and customers at the West Woodlawn Avenue location. Approximately 40 eight-liners were seized.
Deputies also recovered a stolen vehicle at the scene. They are still working to find out if there are any other stolen vehicles related to the gambling house.
Ties to organized crime found, sheriff says
The other location raided on Nov. 10 was on the 100 block of Esma Street. Fifteen people were detained at the scene. Eighteen eight-liners were seized. Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said, “There are organized crime ties to this location as well as the other.”
Customers who were visiting these gambling houses at the time of the raids will most likely avoid any serious legal jeopardy. They will probably pay a citation, nothing more. Employees and operators, however, could be charged with keeping a gambling place and promotion of gambling, according to Salazar.
Salazar also indicated that additional charges might come at a later date.
“It is quite possible that since the two locations are linked, there will be charges at a later date of engaging in organized criminal activity.”
There have been several San Antonio raids in 2022
On Oct. 19, Bexar County Sheriff’s deputies raided two suspected illegal gambling sites. They found dozens of elight-liner machines, drugs, weapons, stolen cars, and a large amount of cash. Both buildings had fortified gates with armed gang members guarding them.
In May, Bexar County deputies busted an alleged illegal gambling ring that had been in operation for a decade. In that raid, there was also thought to be an armed gang member guarding the area, an ATM, slot machines, other types of games, and lots of cash.
On Feb. 16, Bexar County deputies raided another suspected illegal gambling site. That site had illegal gambling machines. It also had dozens of guns – some of which were stolen – and many vehicles – some of which were also stolen – in addition to drugs and lots of cash. The possibility of violence exists at all the raided sites, Salazar said.
“I cannot even say they are trying very hard to hide what they are doing from folks, but as we all know that when you have an organized crime group conducting business like this, it could certainly turn violent at any given time.”
Gambling laws vague in Texas
San Antonio, as well as the rest of Texas, has a long history with gambling–legal and illegal. Texas Hold ‘em is one of the most famous card games that obviously hails from the state of Texas.
The state enjoys one of the most-played lottery systems in the country. The Lottery has broken its yearly sales record for 12 straight years. So, the fact that gambling has also remained in the darker corners of the state is not surprising.
Even with all of this being said, Texas gambling laws can be vague. While it is legal to host a poker night at your home in Texas, it is not legal to have slot machines in your home for people to utilize.
There are many other forms of gambling, such as horse racing, lottery games and office pools that are legal. But operating game rooms with eight-liners that pay out cash prizes has recently been deemed an illegal lottery by a Texas appellate court. This ruling will likely reach the Texas Supreme Court.
Until then, it seems law enforcement has its hands full deciding how hard to come down on game rooms.