The Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers and the American Gaming Association (AGA) have embarked on a joint effort to call attention to the rampant spread of illegal gaming in Texas.
The unlawful gaming primarily consists of illegally operated 8-line games, or “8-liners” as they are commonly known, but also includes slot machines illegally brought into the state and mixed with, or disguised as, 8-liners. While 8-line games are not illegal in Texas, state law dictates that payouts must be limited to a value of $5 in non-cash prizes. Rogue operators in the Lone Star State are flouting the law with the games paying cash jackpots, according to a joint news release from the associations.
“It’s very important that somebody stands up and points out what’s going on in Texas,” said Marcus Prater, executive director of the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM). “We just want law enforcement to enforce the law that’s already on the books. It’s out of control with these locations and machines.”
Estimates indicate as many as 100,000 to 150,000 machines are operating illegally in the state, Prater said in an interview.
The efforts of AGEM and the AGA alone won’t eradicate the problem, he said, “but if we can draw attention to the issue, a few higher profile arrests will go a long way toward stopping the spread of these machines.”
If nothing is done, the unlawful gaming will only continue to expand, something AGEM does not want to see happen. “AGEM represents the most respected licensed and regulated gaming suppliers in the world, and we no longer can remain silent about the current environment of widespread illegal gambling in Texas,” Thomas Jingoli, AGEM president and chief compliance officer for Konami Gaming, said in a statement. “On behalf of our 140-plus member companies who supply gaming equipment and technology to regulated markets around the world, we are asking for law enforcement in Texas, from the highest levels in Austin to the smallest communities, to enforce the state’s existing laws that forbid the kind of uncontrolled activity that continues to spread.”
AGA President and CEO Geoff Freeman expressed optimism about the opportunity to address the issue. “Over the last several months, AGA has been shining a spotlight on the vast, dangerous, illegal gambling operations running rampant across the country, and few places exemplify the thriving nature of illegal gambling better than Texas, where hundreds of thousands of black market machines are currently in operation,” he said in a statement. “By partnering with AGEM and building off of the already strong support of law enforcement officials at every level, we will make real progress in shutting down illegal operators.”
Such law enforcement efforts will act as a deterrent, Prater said, noting landlords of locations where these unlawful operations are often found might think twice about looking the other way and leasing space to illegal operators.
The two associations sent a joint letter to elected officials and law enforcement in Texas, urging them to take action. Recipients included Texas Gov. Greg Abbott; Texas’ congressional delegation; state Attorney General Ken Paxton; and state legislative leaders. AGEM also has retained a law firm and public relations firm in Texas that will follow up on this issue, Prater said.
Several Texas elected officials have expressed support, including state Sen. Lois W. Kolkhorst, R-Brenham; state Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Tomball; and state Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin.
“I remain very concerned about the continuing spread of 8-liner machines throughout Texas and the lack of law enforcement oversight that would ensure cash transactions are not taking place,” Kuempel said in a statement. “Simply put, the current game room environment in our state is unacceptable and must be addressed to stop the criminal activity that is currently taking place.”