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Hunt County Attorney Press Release about 8 Liners PDF Print E-mail

OFFICE OF THE COUNTY ATTORNEY

HUNT COUNTY, TEXAS

P.O. Box 1097

Greenville, Texas 75403-1097

Phone (903) 408-4112                                   Fax (903) 408-4297 

 

March 5, 2007 

PRESS RELEASE  

All across Texas slot machine or “8-liner” casinos are doing a brisk business.  On rural highways and in urban shopping centers, neon-lights proudly advertise Casino or Video Slots.  Even newspapers advertisements inform Texas residents that you no longer need to leave Texas and go to Las Vegas or Shreveport to gamble on slot machines.  Most people blame the explosion of illegal slot machines or “8-liner” casinos in Texas on law enforcement officers and prosecutors.  Citizens complain that law enforcement officers and prosecutors simply will not enforce the law and shut down illegal slot machines or “8-liner” casinos that blatantly violate the law.   This blame is misplaced.  Law enforcement officers and prosecutors have diligently attempted to enforce the law prohibiting illegal gambling.  The fact of the matter is that the Texas Legislature created a legal exception to gambling known as the “fuzzy animal” exception that has allowed illegal slot machines or “8-liner” casinos to thrive in Texas despite the efforts of law enforcement officers and prosecutors.  For over a decade law enforcement officers and prosecutors have petitioned the Texas Legislature to repeal this exception.  However, the exception still exists.  Undeterred by the Texas Legislature’s past refusals to repeal the “fuzzy animal” exception, law enforcement officers and prosecutors have yet again petitioned the Texas Legislature to repeal the “fuzzy animal” exception thereby giving law enforcement officers and prosecutors the ability to quickly and effectively shut down illegal slot machines or “8-liner” casinos in Texas.     The “fuzzy animal” exception is located in Section 47.01(4) of the Texas Penal Code.  It states that a gambling device does not include, “any electronic, electromechanical, or mechanical contrivance designed, made, and adapted solely for bona fide amusement purposes if the contrivance rewards the player exclusively with noncash merchandise prize, toys, or novelties, or a representation of value redeemable for those items that have a wholesale value available from a single play of the game or device of not more than 10 times the amount charged to play the game or device once or $5, whichever is less.”  In layman’s term, this means children’s amusements devices are not illegal gambling machines.  For example, under the “fuzzy animal” exception, children can play skeet-ball at the county fair or at you local arcade and win enough tickets to redeem for a stuffed animal.  In essence, the “fuzzy animal” exception was created to distinguish legal children’s amusement devices from illegal gambling devices. This was the intent, not the result.       Regrettably, the “fuzzy animal” exception made all gambling machines legal.  Due to the “fuzzy animal” exception gambling machines, like slot machines or 8-liners, are only illegal if they are used illegally.  Sounds strange?  It is.  This is what lawyers and legislators refer to as an unintended consequence of a law.  The intent was noble; make gambling machines illegal but not children’s amusement devices. Unfortunately however, the owners and operators of illegal slot machined or “8-liner” casinos have exploited the “fuzzy animal” exception for illegal gain.  How?  The owners and operators of slot machines or “8-liner” casinos operate their casinos under the false pretense or front that they only award “non-cash merchandise prizes, toys, or novelties, or a representation of value redeemable for those items that have a wholesale value available from a single play of the game or device of not more than 10 times the amount charged to play the game or device once or $5, whichever is less.”  Remember, the “fuzzy animal” exception.  Again, under the “fuzzy animal” exception, it is legal to use any gambling machine as long as the reward for playing the gambling device is only a “fuzzy animal” i.e. a teddy bear or trinket of nominal value.  Therefore, the owners and operators of illegal slot machines or “8-liner” casinos claim they only award “fuzzy animal” type prizes.   In reality, however, they do not.  These casinos award cash, or a cash equivalent, such a gift certificates and debit cards.  To avoid being arrested, however, the owners and operators pay the winner cash, or a cash equivalent, behind closed doors and only to individuals that they do not suspect to be undercover police officers or informants.  Does law enforcement know this is happening?  Yes.  However, knowing something is happening, and having evidence to prove something is happening in the criminal justice system are two different things.  Therefore, law enforcement officers must undertake lengthy undercover operations that last months to years before they can obtain legal evidence that the casino is paying cash or a cash equivalent.  It is only then, after a costly and time consuming investigation that law enforcement is able to obtain legal evidence that slot machines or “8-liner” casinos are operating illegally by paying cash or a cash equivalent and arrest the owners and operators and shut the casinos down.  The problem, however, does not end here.  The casinos owners and operators, upon arrest, simply buy new slot machines or “8-liners” and re-open the casino; many times, within days to weeks after being shut down by law enforcement.  How?  Why?  The answer is threefold consisting of the following: money, time, and the range of punishment. Owners and operators of “8-liner” “gambling device” casinos, depending on the number of “8-liner” “gambling device” machines, can make more than $50,000 per month.  Due to the fact that an investigation can take months to years to obtain the evidence to shut the casino down, an owner and operator of a casino could make $600,000 (12 months x $50,000) before sufficient evidence is obtained for a law enforcement agency to shut the casino down.  Finally, the punishment for this criminal offense is a Class A misdemeanor.   A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by a fine not to exceed $4,000 and or up to 12 months in jail.  The result is simple: being arrested and convicted for owning or operating a slot machine or “8-liner” casino is simply considered a small cost of doing business or a small inconvenience. To better understand the problem facing law enforcement and prosecutors imagine this scenario.  Imagine that the Texas Legislature passed a law that the possession of all drugs, including cocaine, heroine, or even methamphetamine was legal and that only the illegal use of cocaine, heroine, or methamphetamine was illegal.  Do you think law enforcement and prosecutors would be able to arrest and prosecute drug dealers?  The answer: absolutely not.  Do you think that drug dealers would exploit this loop-hole?  The answer: absolutely.  This imaginary scenario is the reality that faces law enforcements officers and prosecutors who attempt to arrest and prosecute the owners and operators of illegal slot machine or “8-liner” casinos. In response to the epidemic proliferation of illegal slot machine or “8-liner” casinos, the Hunt County Attorney’s Office contacted and requested Representative Dan Flynn to file legislation that would eliminate the “fuzzy animal” exception and give law enforcement officers and prosecutors the ability to quickly and effectively arrest and prosecute owners and operators of slot machine or “8-liner” casinos.  In response, Representative Dan Flynn filed House Bill 330.  House Bill 330 makes slot machines or “8-liners”gambling machines illegal to possess.  House Bill 330 has been endorsed by law enforcement officers and prosecutors from all over Texas.  In fact, on February 27, 2007, numerous law enforcement officers and prosecutors testified before the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence in support of House Bill 330. You might think that the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence would vote in favor of House Bill 330.  However, at the conclusion of the hearing, a vote on the matter was left pending.  Further, from all indications it appears that the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will not vote in favor House Bill 330.  Therefore, at this time, I am urging all citizens to contact the members of the Criminal Jurisprudence House Committee and your local representative and voice your support for the passage of House Bill 330.  The members of the Criminal Jurisprudence House Committee and the contact information for each member are listed below.  Tell them to pass House Bill 330.  Give law enforcement officers and prosecutors to the ability to do their job.  If House Bill 330 fails, don’t blame law enforcement officers and prosecutors for illegal slot machine or 8-liner casinos in Texas. 

1.  Representative Aaron Pena:  

2.  Representative Allen Vaught

3.  Representative Terri Hodge:   

4.  Representative Barbara Mallory Caraway:     

5.  Representative Paula Hightower Pierson:      

6.  Representative Debbie Riddle: 

7. Representative Robert Talton:      

8. Representative Paul Moreno:    

9.  Representative Juan Manuel Escobar:   

 
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