Brown County sheriff’s deputies and Brownwood police served search warrants at three eight liner establishments Friday afternoon in Brownwood and seized evidence including motherboards and records as part of an investigation into illegal gambling.
No arrests were expected Friday at the three locations — King’s Diamond, 711 Third St.; Wild Cherry, 1015 N. Fisk; and Gold City, 1501 Market Place — but criminal charges are expected to be filed, Brownwood Police Chief Terry Nichols said.
“We believe, obviously, there is gambling going on,” Nichols said.
Officers ran undercover operations and focused on those three locations because ”they’re the ones we’re getting the most complaints on,” Nichols said.
“The investigation will continue. We’re going to be seizing the motherboards from all the gaming machines. Any assets and proceeds from gambling will be seized as evidence as well for possible forfeiture. We will be following this up with criminal charges.”
In July, police, sheriff’s deputies and Brown County Attorney Shane Britton “got together and started talking about the numerous complaints we’ve been getting on these eight-liner operations,” Nichols said.
“We drafted a letter and I hand-delivered the letter to most of these establishments here in Brownwood.”
The letter notified the businesses that “we’re doing the operations, putting them on notice and saying we’re getting allegations that you’re in violation of the gaming laws of Texas,” Nichols said. “Cease and desist.
“We told them we would be investigating, and today we’re executing three search warrants.”
Nichols said it’s disadvantaged people who play the machines and gamble with food money.
“We get complaints from family members saying their grandmother, their aunt, their mother, their elderly folks are playing these games and they’re losing their money,” Nichols said.
Nichols, Sheriff Vance Hill and Britton signed the July letter that was delivered to eight-liner businesses.
The letter stated police and deputies would conduct a covert investigation into businesses that were suspected of operating illegal gambling.
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 stated.
Under current law, the letter stated, 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 stated.
Eight liner operators use various tactics to skirt the law, according to the letter.
The letter gave examples including:
Two consolidated Texas Supreme Court cases from 2003 held that gift certificates redeemable at 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.
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 stated, 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.”
Nichols said, “We put them on notice back in July, August, September, that if they continued what they were doing, we’d come visit them.”