Multiple arrests made during Operation One-Armed Bandit
The individuals involved in the investigation were charged with keeping a gambling place and gambling promotion
LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - Last Friday, we reported a dozen arrests made in connection with eight-liner businesses.
Patrons of eight-liner businesses are looking to hit the jackpot, but after a three-year police investigation, they and the owners weren’t so lucky after all.
Paris Amusement was one of the locations police raided with ties to alleged illegal gambling.
A “good luck” poster and the remnants of a money window decal... that’s what’s left behind where Paris Amusement once was. Not an amusement park, but instead an eight-liner.
Those are gaming establishments with the popular slot machines also called the same name.
Some are legal, and some are not.
“They’re not supposed to be handing out money as cash prizes," said Investigator Joe Baeza. "They’re obviously doing it because people are flocking to them.”
Police arrested a dozen people and raided more than 13 eight-liners, also called maquinitas, between August and October of 2020.
This was part of an ongoing criminal investigation called “One-Armed Bandit,” dating back to June 2017.
The people were charged with promoting gambling and operating a gambling establishment which is illegal in Texas if the prize is cash or if the prize is worth more than $5 or more than 10 times the amount charged to play the game.
“There were several eight-liner businesses that were open and established, not only giving money away, which is against state law," Investigator Baeza said. In addition to that, some of them weren’t following the local city ordinances regarding the COVID-19 requirements.”
Four of them were not registered with the state and did not have the correct permits for the machines, and those that served food and drinks were unregulated by the Laredo Health Department.
Investigator Baeza called it an “underground” operation saying, “Kind of like a speakeasy type of a place. No advertising on the outside of the business. So they were operating under the guise of concealment away from law enforcement.”
Many also allegedly did not enforce face masks or social distancing.
“By having communal contact with something in close proximity, like touching buttons and machines and money, it’s not a good recipe for COVID-19,” he said.
This location as well as nine other maquinitas were shut down in July due to allegedly violating the city’s COVID-19 health orders.
Police are still searching for eight people in connection with Operation One-Armed Bandit.
If you know of any establishments illegally operating within the city limits, you are urged to call police at 956-795-2800.
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