Brownwood police and Brown County sheriff’s deputies will be covertly checking up on businesses that operate eight-liner machines in a investigation into illegal gambling.
Brownwood Police Terry Nichols released a letter to the media Tuesday that has been delivered to “establishment owners, managers and employees who operate gaming machines." Nichols, Sheriff Vance Hill and County Attorney Shane Britton signed the letter.
The letter states that it has come to the attention of law enforcement that “you are possibly operating an illegal gambling establishment.”
Police and deputies will be “investigating your business, and others like yours, in the very near future,” the letter states. “Unfortunately, you will not know about the investigation until it is concluded because it will be conducted covertly.”
If police and deputies determine a business is being operated illegally, operators and employees will be subject to arrest and prosecution, and investigators may seize equipment and illegally obtained proceeds, the letter states.
Under current law, the letter states, an eight liner is legal if it:
• Is used only for “bonafide amusement purposes.”
• Awards a player with non-cash merchandise or vouchers redeemable for novelty items, and the value of the prize or certificate is not more than 10 times the cost of a single play or $5, whichever is less.
If an eight liner pays out in cash or exceeds the statutory minimum prize amount, it is illegal, the letter states.
Eight liner operators use various tactics to skirt the law, the letter states.
The letter gave examples including:
• Two consolidated Texas Supreme Court cases from 2003 held that gift certificates redeemable retails stores that are the equivalent of cash, and eight liners that dispense the certificates are illegal gambling devices.
• If an eight liner pays cash that is only used to play another machine, that is illegal.
• According to a Texas Attorney General’s opinion, eight liners in a Bingo hall that issue tickets redeemable for daubers, play cards and items from the Bingo hall concession stand are illegal gambling devices.
There is a common misconception that an eight liner is legal if it has a tax stamp from the Texas State Comptroller’s office, the letter states, adding, “this is only partially true. The stamp is confirmation that the devices is legally registered with the state. Being registered, however, does not address the legalities of how the machine is being operated.”