Texas Bingo Halls Face Illegal Competition

In Lubbock Texas bingo halls generate over $310,000 annually for the city’s general fund. Some officials and bingo hall operators say that number may drop in the future as bingo halls continue to lose business. City Councilman Victor Hernandez discussed the problem with reporters and said “We’ve got an excellent staff over at City Hall that puts those projections together for us based on current trends at the time they are putting them together and also past performance. They did explain to the council that this year they were not being as conservative as they have been in the past. They were a little bit more aggressive in their projections.”

Hernandez said he does not expect the amount collected by bingo taxes to 1% to 2% from the projected amount. Lubbock’s bingo operators say that primary factor contributing to the decline of their player base are illegal operations known as ‘eight liners.’ In Texas bingo halls operate as fundraisers for charities and philanthropic organizations. Only nonprofits registered with the Texas State Lottery Commission are allowed to lease the space and the equipment necessary to operate the games. The state levys a 5% tax on on prizes and divides the money between the state and municipalities.

In 2012 the city of Lubbock received $637,492 from the tax on bingo. This year the number has dropped $20,000, a 26% decline in bingo tax revenues. Bingo operators and officials say that eight liners are responsible for the decline. Eight liners are essentially slot machines that were not designed for gambling. According to Lt. Bryan Taylor of the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office patrons receive cash prizes. The illegal eight liners are in direct competition with bingo halls and offer prizes ranging from $1 to $10,000. Rod Brown, owner of Bingo Express, the operations are disguised as game rooms. Lt. Taylor stated “As far as gambling goes, it is a Class C misdemeanor, but the promotion of gambling — which is basically what that establishment would do — is a Class A misdemeanor. If you have a building and you are running a craps game or something in the back, you are promoting gambling.”

There have been several raids on eight liner rooms in Lubbock. Two of the raids were conducted by the sheriff’s department. Taylor said “They are just like any other undercover operation; we target these areas and if they have any type of illegal activity we do what we can to shut them down. We are going to enforce laws as far as dealing with that. We do have ongoing undercover investigations into these illegal gambling operations. We have to prove that illegal operations and gambling are happening. It is the transfer of money prices or vouchers.”

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