“We couldn’t have done it without them,” Aliseda, who represents the 156th Judicial District in Bee, Live Oak and McMullen counties, said of the manpower provided by the Beeville Police Department and Bee County Sheriff’s Office.
He said it would have been impossible to hit all five of the eight-liner locations simultaneously.
The locations raided by officers included the Golds Amusement center in the 600 block of North St. Mary’s Street, the ABC Amusement center in the 1900 block of North St. Mary’s Street, the Diamond Amusement center in the 2200 block of that same street, the Lucky One amusement center in the 800 block of South Washington Street and the Golden House Amusement center in the 600 block of West Corpus Christi Street.
Police Chief Joe Treviño said the raids were all conducted just after 10 a.m. Monday, and six employees and owners were charged with various gambling-related crimes.
The charges filed included the promotion of gambling, possession of a gambling device and keeping a gambling place.
All of those offenses are Class A misdemeanors.
If convicted on any of the misdemeanors, the defendants could be fined up to $4,000, confined for a year in the county jail or both.
Aliseda said it is possible that all of those charged with the Class A violations could eventually face indictment on a variety of state jail felony offenses. The prosecutor said that will depend on what the Bee County Grand Jury decides.
Felony charges would include engaging in organized criminal activity, in the event that three or more possible suspects were involved in the operation, and money laundering.
All six owners and managers arrested had been released on $1,000 bonds by Tuesday.
Patrons who were in the businesses at the time of the raids were detained briefly for questioning and given citations for gambling.
Those charges are Class C misdemeanors. The maximum punishment for that would be $500 fine.
“These people are addicts,” Aliseda said of the gamblers. But the money they spend in those parlors ends up going out of Bee County, and it is often used to fund other illegal activities.
On Monday, Aliseda said the officers confiscated $84,500 and change from the five gaming parlors.
The prosecutor said what makes the operations illegal is paying the patrons in cash. He said each parlor had a collection of stuffed animals, cheap watches and other so-called “prizes” on display. But those items were all covered with dust.
Aliseda said the lure that draws the players into the establishments is the possibility of winning cash.
The prosecutor said an undercover agent working for his office had already been in the gaming parlors and had made cases against the owners and managers before the raids took place Monday.
Aliseda said his office is taking steps to confiscate not only the cash found in the parlors but also the machines and even the real estate. Several hundred of the eight-liner machines were found in the five locations.
Aliseda said that should discourage property owners from leasing their buildings to be used as gambling establishments.
“The public doesn’t understand just how bad these places are,” Aliseda said. “The people who run these places are making more money than a drug dealer.”
The district attorney said his goal is to let the operators of the parlors know that staying in business here will not be an option.
“They’re not going to be in this district,” Aliseda said. Already, he has been told that the eight-liner operations in Live Oak County have moved elsewhere. He said he knows that even in Nueces County authorities have been working to shut down the eight-liner operations.
However, Aliseda said he doubts that law enforcement will ever be able to shut down those operations for good. There is just too much money to be made.
The most serious problem is that the parlors are not like the gambling establishments in places where gambling is legal and regulated by the state. There are no standards in Texas for how often the machines pay.
“We have evidence that a quarter of a million dollars a month can go through just one of these places,” Aliseda said.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.