Investigators with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Somervell County Sheriff’s Department on Sunday raided an electronic gaming business at 1210 N.E. Big Bend Trail and seized machines and thousands of dollars.
The DPS’ Criminal Investigations Division/Special Investigative Service unit and sheriff’s officers executed a search warrant and took control of 41 “eight-liner” electronic gaming machines and more than $4,685 in cash.
No arrests were made. Vicki Lancaster, the manager of the business, and several patrons were released at the scene.
The investigation is ongoing and all information will be forwarded to Somervell County Attorney Ron Hankins for consideration of criminal charges, said Derrell McCravey, chief deputy.
Eight-liners are video slot machines with eight ways to win — three horizontal lines, three vertical lines and two diagonal lines. The results rely on chance rather than player skill because the machines use computerized random number generators.
However, the nature of payouts is what distinguishes eight-liners from Las Vegas-style slot machines and a legal amusement device from an illegal gambling device.
Eight-liner machines are legal if they reward the players only with 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,” according to language added to the Texas Penal Code in 1993 by the Texas Legislature.
“You rack up points and then they pay you out,” McCravey said.
But eight-liner gambling devices that “operate outside the strict limits established in the Penal Code are illegal — period,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has said. Gambling is illegal in Texas and authorities have raided hundreds of eight-liner parlors all over the state in recent years.
The gaming business’ owners, Ray and Vicki Lancaster, are from Azle and run other electronic gaming establishments, McCravey said.
“When they first came in here we told them that they had to run it legally,” he noted.
But when authorities suspected that gambling may be taking place, DPS investigators went undercover since the sheriff’s officers might be recognized. The undercover operation lasted “a couple of months,” McCravey said.