In a state rooted in gambling, criminalizing it has never stopped it. It has only forced it underground.
A recent indictment from a raid of an illegal gambling operation highlights that. The police raid shows why gambling should be legal in Texas.
In January 2021, police in Amarillo broke up an illegal gambling operation in the Panhandle. The alleged ringleader was Bluford Lewis Clary. A grand jury indicted him on June 22. He was indicted on one count of running an illegal gambling business.
Gambling operation included eight sites
According to the indictment, Clary ran an underground gambling business called the “Red Room Gambling Room.” It included five or more people.
Authorities discovered the business in January 2021. It could have been in operation since 2017.
In the 30 days the operation was running, it had eight sites and brought in about $2,000 a day. The indictment also indicates that it may have also extended into Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Clary will have to forfeit over $1.2 million seized from different gambling sites if convicted. He’ll also have to forfeit more than 100 motherboards from eight-liner slot machines, 37 SD cards and 13 hard drives.
The eight-liners, of which Clary had over 100, have only recently been added to the lengthy list of illegal gambling games in Texas. There are still many in operation in underground and obscure above-ground businesses throughout Texas.
Raids and seizures happen a lot in Texas
This scene is common in Texas. An eight-liner game room bust in Bexar County (San Antonio) in May looks very similar to Clary’s. The police confiscated bags of cash, more than 100 eight-liners, and even weapons from a house in a residential neighborhood. The proprietors operated the ring in the backyard.
In 2013, a man associated with the “Asian mob” was sentenced to more than six years in prison for running an illegal gambling operation in Amarillo. He also possessed illegal weapons. In 2014, a gambling ring that included five Amarillo residents and raked in over $300,000 was broken up. All five were sentenced to time in prison.
A Potter County attorney noted that these raids had been happening since the 1990s on a small scale. Only recently had the raids widened to include drug busts, large networks of gambling houses and shootouts. Most of them also happened in residential areas.
In 2021, a bust conducted in Amarillo resulted in the seizure of over $100,000 in cash. Also seized were guns, 234 gaming devices (likely eight-liners) and various drugs at 14 different locations.
Along with the illegal gambling operations, poker room proprietors in Houston are failing to control their games. People have alleged cheating and machine manipulation.
Impacts of maintaining status quo
In the run-up to the 2023 legislative session in Texas, legal gaming opponents will cite community degradation as a major concern. They will also say eight-liner parlors are eyesores. They will reference gambling addiction and the moral decay associated with the industry.
Proponents could also use the same arguments for legalization. In fact, criminalizing gambling, more than anything else, degrades those communities where gambling rings are busted.
Most of these gambling rings operate out of people’s residences. No one wants to live next door to an underground gambling parlor. Regulating the industry significantly curtails both of these scenarios.
As well as operating illegally, these gambling operations are a public nuisance and a threat to nearby legitimate businesses. Legalizing gambling puts many of these shady underground game rooms out of business.