As illegal gambling rigs spring up in central Texas, local law enforcement lingering over Illegal gaming rooms issue.
Illegal gaming rooms have sprung up like cactus scattered in the desert in KXAN, in central Texas except you don’t need to go very far out to see most of them as some locations are obvious to passersby. Despite that fact, Austin police officers haven’t been able to do much about it even as crime and violence are escalating in such rigs.
The gambling rooms are usually smaller in size compared to regular casinos. They feature slot machines nicknamed “8-liner” machines. 8-liner games are legal under US gambling laws though, as long as the gambling room operators stick to handing out cash prizes of $5 and less. Also Austin doesn’t have any laws that require game rooms to be ‘registered or permitted or provide penalties for operating an illegal game room’.
Undercover producers films players placing bets to win big bucks
One game room opened up recently in southeast Austin on Drossett Drive at Burleson Road. However it’s been reported that people working nearby are concerned about their safety. One lady said the rooms made them nervous, “It was definitely uneasy. You didn’t want to work later than dark.” So just like in the movies, KXAN decided to infiltrate the game room.
Armed with hidden cameras, two undercover producers filmed punters making bets and hoping for mega returns. According to US gambling news reporters, the game room employees had hefty bags with large amount of cash. KXAN producers filming the said employees paying the undercover producers and other bettors cash prizes far exceeding the legal, making such acts illegal in the game room.
One patron, Roberto Rodriguez, told the undercover Mississippi grind-wannabe producers that once he won as much as $600. Rodriguez confirmed that he played at several game rooms in the town, admitting he knew the practice was illegal.
Outbreak of fights and shady characters instill fear in people working nearby
For sure, the illegal operations prove attractive to land-based and online mobile casino users. However such rigs also attract the seedy sort. Sometimes fights break out at such places, bringing in the police go in. At the beginning of April a fight broke out at the game room on north Lamar Blvd. The police arrested a man brandishing a gun and hoarding drugs.
Three years earlier, a man was shot to death as he pulled a robbery stunt at an east Austin game room. A concerned citizen called up the KXAN telling them “Our concern was the amount of people and the shady characters that were coming into the area,” referring to a game room that opened on Drossett Drive in a business park where she works.
APD more concerned with human trafficking that game room fights
Head of the Vice Unit of the Austin Police Department (APD), Sgt. Bob Miljenovich confessed that the game rooms are a becoming a major issue. He and his detectives are also aware of where they are located. However he pointed out that keeping a track of the amount of game rooms operating illicitly in Austin was difficult as often they change location and owners.
Sgt. Miljenovich explained that “There are all kinds of associated crimes with these types of businesses – armed robberies, assaults, other types of theft crimes. A lot of those never get reported to police. These bleed over into residential areas. Both the child exploitation and the human trafficking mission for eight detectives and three officers, those take up the bulk and vast majority of work which leaves not a whole lot of time and resources to devote to the game rooms.”
Committee on Public Safety promises to give tools to APD to handle game rooms
Sgt. Miljenovich admits his officers don’t have adequate resources to clampdown on those citing matters of higher precedence. Furthermore when a court order closes a game room, under state law, the owners are usually charged with keeping a gambling place, a Class C misdemeanor. The owners can be fined a maximum of $4,000 could be sentenced to up to a year behind bars.
Vice chairperson of the Committee on Public Safety, Greg Casar, said undercover cops should also be equipped with tools like video cameras. He promised to examine the problem. He is confident that by giving APD the right tools, they can handle the game rooms crime issue.