County uses novel approach to fight illegal gambling - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

County uses novel approach to fight illegal gambling

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

It was clear the employees at this business were not going to open the door.  Harris County prosecutors said they are finding illegal gambling operations popping up all over the place.

Jess Covington said there is a thirst for gambling in Harris County.  Houstonians want more than just weekly chances at the lottery.

"Yeah, it gets people excited, you know?" Covington said.

It is a little too excitable for county officials.  They have filed multiple lawsuits against three so-called illegal gambling operations.

That includes the Game Room locations off of River Stage, Normandy and East Hampton Drive.

Including this location on River Stage called the Game Room, a second on Normandy and the third on East Hampton Drive.

"We want the illegal gambling to stop and we don't want it to result in a murder occurring," Assistant County Attorney Melissa Spinks said.

She is talking about the homicide at a gambling operation off of the East Freeway in August.

Investigators said the problem is game room operators take chances, even after being raided, because the illegal industry, filled with 8-liners, is so lucrative.

According to a lawsuit, investigators raided an illegal gambling operation off of Normandy and seized 81 gambling devices in 2008.  Two months later, 91 devices were back in place and seized again.  By 2011, the same location had 67 more devices in place that were seized.  Five months later, they were replaced by 85 more devices.

"It's like a revolving door.  They go in and seize the equipment.  A few months go by, the owner gets more machines," Spinks said.

That's county attorneys are going after this latest batch of game rooms with civil law.  They sue the building and the landowner, people who are not willing to spend thousands for a tenant who runs a gambling operation.

"It's a more permanent solution than going in and seizing the machines," Spinks said.

Will this stop the problem?  Houstonians, like Covington, do not believe these gambling operations hurt the community or those who place their bets behind tinted windows.

"Some people take it a little too far and I can understand why they call it a nuisance but to me, it's not that big of a deal.  I don't have that issue," Covington said.

Management at the River Sage game room said they could not comment because they have not read the lawsuit.

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