Lufkin Police Bust Game Rooms Operating Eight-Liners

Written By Rashid Mohamed on September 19, 2022
Lufkin Police bust up six illegal game rooms simultaneously

Lufkin Police recently raided six illegal game rooms, seizing several eight-liners.

This raid and others like it underscore the growing need for legal Texas gambling. Illegal game rooms and offshore sportsbooks are the most prevalent gaming outlets in the state.

More importantly, they both leave the player at risk and bring in no revenue for the state.

Coordinated effort brought down six targets

According to Lufkin Communications Director Jessica Pebsworth, the busts took place simultaneously and targeted operations at the following addresses:

  • 1702 S. First Street
  • 911 Ellis Ave
  • 2213 S. First Street
  • 502 E. Denman Ave
  • 210 S. Timberland Drive
  • 2412 N. Raguet Street

Investigators began taking an interest in the locations following reports of citizen complaints and increased criminal activity that included an armed robbery at 2213 South St. Police officers have had to respond to the six locations a total of 132 times in the past.

Besides armed robbery, officers have intervened in drug activity, brawls, stolen vehicles, theft, burglary, assaults, terroristic threats and criminal mischief, according to Police Chief David Thomas.

“Although operating a gambling establishment in and of itself is illegal, we are most concerned with other calls for services that they attract like armed robberies, fights, crimes against persons, and the general quality of life in the area.”

The raids took place on Sept. 10 at 3:30 p.m. A statement released that day said game room managers would be identified. Their information will also be added to evidence for presentation to the Angelina County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.

Thomas said on the day of the raids that “patrons of the game room will be identified and released at the scene after being checked for warrants.”

Investigations will continue.

A breeding ground for illegal game rooms

Illegal game rooms are essentially mini casinos without the glitz and glamor. They’re in dreary rooms in strip malls throughout The Lone Star State.

It’s particularly around Southeastern Texas, in places like Orange County, Beaumont and Port Arthur, that have seen these establishments emerging in clusters, mainly in areas neglected by municipality.

While law enforcement has clamped down on many illegal game rooms in the region, they’ve also overlooked others.

Operators say loophole allows them to operate

The main issue here is eight-liners. They get their name from the game of chance using eight paylines. The machines have three reels with classic symbols like cherries, bars and lemons.

These machines fork out money or cash-redeemable prizes to winners but are unlawful in the state of Texas. Game room operators, however, argue that there’s a loophole in the law.

In the Texas Penal Code, there’s a stipulation known as the “fuzzy animal” exception, which states that gaming devices that award prizes such as stuffed animals are not illegal. A slot machine would be legal if it produced a prize “not more than 10 times the amount charged to play the game or device once, or $5, whichever is less.”

Taking advantage of this loophole, game rooms have mushroomed across Southeast Texas. In many cases, they have an adverse effect on neighborhoods by attracting iniquitous activities.

Accounts of children clad in pajamas wheeling suitcases into these establishments have been reported. Complaints from tenants who aren’t pleased to see their neighborhoods turning into red light districts are also mounting.

A new county ordinance, however, backed by ongoing investigations, should see authorities win the day.

Court says there’s no loophole

The use of eight-liners has been a source of controversy over the past few years in Texas. It took five years of legal arm wrestling between game room operators and city officials before the Texas Appeals Court in Fort Worth on April 11 decreed eight-liners unconstitutional.

The court spelled it out in its opinion:

“Even with the best of intentions, the Legislature cannot sanction a lottery of any type; a constitutional amendment is necessary.”

For game room operators, that meant no more hiding behind the fuzzy animal exception.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Rashid Mohamed

Rashid Mohamed is an international journalist with a special interest in sports writing. He contributes regularly to PlayTexas, focusing on both the pathway to gaming legalization and the underground market in the state. He is a Poli-Sci graduate of Ohio University and holds an A.A.S in Journalism. He has worked in a number of countries and has extensive experience in the United Nations as well as other regional, national, and international organizations. Rashid lives and writes out of Denver, Colorado.

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