Wednesday morning (April 15), Hopkins County Attorney Dusty Rabe said her office would consider both legal and civil action in the three cases filed by local law enforcement regarding the use of gambling machines in Sulphur Springs. Rabe stated forfeiture of property and different types of violations, all Class A misdemeanors, which include charges for keeping a gambling place and possession of a gambling device could result from the charges. She stated that it was important to note whether the violations of the law were generated by the owner of the establishment or the employees.
Saturday (April 11), Sulphur Springs Police conducted a raid of three establishments with 8-liner machines and computers used for gambling. The city and county Special Crimes Unit led the investigation and the raid.
Rabe stated that gambling in Texas is illegal and common sense says that 8-liners and computer sweepstakes games like those confiscated in the raids are gambling.
To date, the type of gambling alleged to have been conducted at the places of business is illegal. The reasons for the attempts at gambling are many. With legal games of gambling available within driving distance of Hopkins County, some overlook the Texas laws that prohibit these games being conducted outside the state’s narrow limits. A lot of money can be made by this type of gambling, said Rabe, and those who own the machines are testing the waters to see how various counties will respond to the law. She stated that some are seeking ways to circumvent or tweak current laws, “They go in with machines to rent and promise the business a 12.5% cut of the profits which they keep a 12.5% cut with 4% going to charity… They say it doesn’t cost to play.” Rabe points out that it does cost to play. Those who gamble are given a free dollar and an account number is established for them. With the free dollar they have a 1% chance of winning. They are then given the option of adding money to the account which will increase the odds to a 70% chance of a win. Money cannot be used as a reward for winning nor can any prize over a $5 value. However, Rabe points out, gift cards have been attempted and cash is often used as a prize.
Computer sweepstakes appear to be another way groups are attempting to sidestep the law according to the county attorney. She said the Texas Attorney General’s has offered an opinion opposing computer sweepstakes gambling based on the sweepstakes in relationship to the lottery.
The county attorney pointed out that those who own the machines often move from county to county hoping a jury will allow them to continue to operate.
Lt. Harold McClure with the Special Crimes Unit said the undercover operation investigating illegal gambling with 8-liners in Sulphur Springs began around the first of March. He said this type of investigation is not the forte of the local special crimes unit but that this does come under their purview. McClure said that in at least one instance a convenience store was paying out with scratch off lottery tickets which is in violation of the Texas Lottery Commission law and guidelines for use of the machines. Some of the locations also hold alcohol license which violates the law of promotion of gambling.
Executing search warrants on three locations in Sulphur Springs Saturday night, machines and computers, along with over $12,000 were seized. The investigation is on-going. Cases have been filed with the Hopkins County Attorney’s Office and prosecution of the cases will come from that office.