The five eight-liners will be destroyed by the El Campo Police if the department wins a 329th District Court forfeiture case, but there are likely more in the area.
The machines themselves aren’t illegal, El Campo Police Assistant Chief Jennifer Mican said, it’s the cash payout that makes it a crime.
Games can be played for tickets and prizes can be awarded, but they must be of a negligible value, This system is used in El Campo’s Mr. Gatti’s Pizza, 1202 N. Mechanic, every day with children where children can win small prizes for rolling balls into targets in skee ball, tossing a basketball or dropping a coin through a patterned maze.
The latest gambling raid in El Campo took place Dec. 15, targeting Shop N Joy, 616 N. Wharton, where five machines had been set up for customers. “A lot of information we get is from family members. They call in ... my such and such is spending all of their money there,” Mican said.
Acting on information received, the ECPD sent an agent into Shop N Joy to play with a limited amount of cash. “She put the $20 in. She won $31. She pressed the ticket out button ... (the store operator) retrieved the ticket and then retrieved $31 from a money bag,” Sgt. Joseph Whitney said.
At Shop N Joy, $2,524 in cash was seized and is also the subject of a forfeiture suit. The eight-liners will be smashed if the department wins and the cash would be used for future crime fighting activities. However, the machines may actually be leased by the store. There is a possibility that they will be returned to the rental company.
Raiding Shop N Joy probably didn’t stop eight liner gambling in El Campo, Mican said. “There’s probably several more floating around,” she said.
ECPD and other agencies encourage people to report gambling activities, the West Wharton County Crime Stoppers offers rewards for information leading to seizures. “We haven’t had any reports of that (eight liner dens) lately. Not saying that it isn’t happening but we do not have any active investigations at this time,” Wharton County Sheriff Shannon Srubar said.
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