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Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr.: District 27
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Press Release
April 29, 2013
Contact: Daniel Collins
General Counsel & Press Secretary
Lucio Bill to Limit Illegal Gambling Passes Senate Committee

AUSTIN — Today, a bill by Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville) intended to limit illegal gambling in Texas passed out of a Senate Committee. Senate Bill 1503 would discourage illegal use of ''eight-liner" machines by requiring game room operators to register the machines with the state Comptroller.

"Game rooms which illegally use eight-liner machines to pay out cash awards have become hotbeds for illegal activity and violence," Senator Lucio said. "Senate Bill 1503 will discourage illegal gambling by shining a bright light on these illicit game rooms; the bill forces compliance with the state's anti-gambling laws via public disclosure and registration. With passage of this bill, law enforcement will finally have the opportunity to inspect and shut down illegal game rooms."

Across the state, game rooms use eight-liner machines, coin-operated electronic video gaming devices that resemble slot machines. These machines are legal under the Texas Penal Code unless the operator pays cash. Game rooms are only allowed to pay out noncash prizes such as stuffed animals or small electronics.

Across the state, game rooms have become centers for assorted criminal activity, not limited to illegal gambling. Along the U.S.- Mexico border, it is alleged that illicit game rooms attract drug cartels, which may use the businesses to launder money. In Cameron County, law enforcement officials have aggressively soughtto close down illegal use of eight-liners.

Generally however, law enforcement agencies have a difficult time prosecuting illegal use of eight-liners because game rooms often operate in a clandestine manner and behind locked doors, making it difficult to prove the owners are paying cash. Additionally, determining who owns the machines has proven difficult for law enforcement.

Senate Bill 1503 by Senator Lucio is intended to make it easier for state and local law enforcement to inspect illicit game rooms by requiring game room operators prove they are not operating the machines illegally. The bill would create a mandatory license for game rooms with 10 or more eight-liner machines. The Texas Comptroller would apply an annual licensing fee of $500 and an application fee of $500.

Under the bill, any person who submits an application for a game room license consents to an inspection of the premises by the Comptroller or a law enforcement officer at any time. Further, game rooms must display their license at all times and keep a record of each machine located on the premises.

Senate Bill 1503 would also require disclosure of who is profiting from licensed eight-liners. Under the bill, applicants for a game room license must provide the Comptroller the following information:

  • their name and address;
  • the name and address of the game room;
  • the name and address of the person who rents or leases the premises and the amount of rent paid;
  • the name and address of the owner of the machines if the machines are rented;
  • the number of machines;
  • financial interest statements that include the name and address of any person in addition to the owner who has a financial interest in the operation of the machines; and
  • a statement certifying that the machines will only be used in a legal manner

The Comptroller would be required to post on their Web site the game room license number, the holder's name and address, the names of those persons included on the financial interest statement, and the number of eight-liner machines on site.

Finally, the bill applies civil penalties for violations. The first violation would cost an owner $500 per unregistered eight-liner machine. The penalty goes up to $1000 per unregistered eight-liner machine for each subsequent violation.

Now passed out of the Senate Committee on State Affairs, Senate Bill 1503 moves to the full Senate.