East Texas County Has 8-Liner Investigations Led by the FBI
It seems the controversial 8-liner industry reaches beyond South Texas. Federal officials are investigating alleged illegal gambling activity involving 8-liner gaming machines in the city of Athens in East Texas. The businesses being investigated are found on State HW 31 west of Athens. At least one other business on US Highway 175 is also being investigated.
Davilyn Watson, a spokewomen for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Beaumont, was unable to give a comment, because the Athens case is an ongoing investigation. Watson said that she could not give details about the crimes involved in the case, but it would be a specific number of federal laws which might be broken in a case involving eight-liners. Given past cases, money laundering is a possible charge in such an investigation.
How Two Investigations Were Merged
Scott McKee, the Henderson County District Attorney, says he cannot comment on the investigation, either. McKee did confirm that the investigation began with the federal officials, and that his office was assisting in that investigation.
Scott McKee said that his office has done independent research into local businesses which offer eight-liner gaming machines. He said that some of the names they came across during those investigations had matched the names the federal authorities had. When both offices learned about the matches, they merged their investigations.
How 8-Liner Operations Work
Eight-liner operations tend to be staged either in game rooms or in convenience stores. The gaming machines are similar to slot machines. The businesses which offer such machines are not supposed to hand out cash prizes, but instead are supposed to offer food, beverages, and household items.
In many locations, the temptation is to offer cash prizes. This draws in more customers, though it is strictly illegal in Texas. Even when the eight-liner businesses offer appliances and other products, it it hard to track the cash flow. In such cases, the fear is money laundering can take place.
Henderson County 8-Liners
In Henderson County, eight-liners are illegal. Other Texas counties allow 8-liner businesses to operate legally, if they do not hand out money for winnings. In Starr County in South Texas, 8-liner businesses called “maquinitas” are allowed to operate, if they pay a yearly $500 licensing fee. The law allowing such gaming is controversial, though, especially because a county 100 miles away has had a recent bad experience with such gaming machines.
Raids in South Texas
The City of San Benito in Cameron County allowed maquinitas, but eventually shut them down because the owners did not follow the laws. The Express News in South Texas suggests that such gaming operations simply went underground.
This is not the first time in recent history that Henderson County has investigated eight-liner operations. In December 2014, the county executed 5 search warrants for various illegal gaming operations. None of those five places searched were on Wednesday’s list of businesses searched.
2014 Raids in Henderson County
In the earlier case, which involved raids on December 16, a host of state and federal agencies were involved. That raid was conducted by joint operations of the Henderson County District Attorney’s Office, the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, the State Comptroller’s Office, the Department of Public Safety, and the Texas Rangers.
In the December 2014 case, warrants were executed for game rooms in four different communities: Cap City, Eustace, Seven Points, and Tool. The fifth warrant allowed for a search of a Gun Barrel City residence.
$5.4 Billion Shadow Industry
Someone might think 8-liner gaming is a minor revenue producer, but they would be wrong. In 2011, a study conducted by researchers from the University of Texas estimated that $5.4 billion of revenue were generated in 8-liner gaming. That number represents the same amount of cash collected by Atlantic City casinos in their peak years of operations, 2006.
Texas Gaming Law
Like most states in the South, Texas has banned most forms of gambling beyond lotteries and horse racing. Texas residents love to gamble, though, which is why maquinitas flourish and such a substantial underground gaming industry exists.
Even more telling, the interest Texans have for gambling is the reason why large casinos exist along the border with Texas in Durant and Thackerville, Oklahoma, as well as the Shreveport/Bossier City area of Louisiana. In fact, the Winstar Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma is one of the biggest casinos in the world, and most of its revenues come from Dallas/Fort Worth gamblers. The DFW area is 1 hour south of Thackerville.