Starr County, Texas Continues Anti-Illegal Gambling Crusade with 8-Liner Raid


8-Liner Parlors Are Semi-Legal Businesses in Small Texas Towns

Authorities raided an illegal 8-liner casino in Rio Grande City this past week, continuing their anti-illegal gambling crusade. The raid took place at an arcade on East U.S. Highway 83 in Rio Grande City at around 9:30pm this past Thursday.

During the raid, 72 machines were seized and over $25,000 in cash was confiscated. The 8-liner arcade had 55 people inside it at the time. These people were interviewed by officials.

Manager Detained, Ownership Still Uncertain

Through interviews, authorities learned that Federico Aldape was the manager on duty. Aldape, a resident of San Benito, was questioned and released. The investigation into the arcade’s ownership situation is ongoing.

The crusade against illegal gaming activities in Starr County has been going on for 3 months. The Sheriff’s Office pledged to continue its crusade against illegal gambling.

House with Eighteen 8-Liners

Local business storefronts are not the only places operating 8-liners in Starr County. One local resident had an eight-liner business run out of their home, which was raided in early 2014.

At the time of the arrest, Rio Grande City Mayor Ruben Villarreal said his city does not want 8-liners operating there. Villarreal said, “We don’t tolerate them in Rio Grande City. We have made it clear that anybody operating those types of businesses should not bring them in Rio Grande City.”

8-Liners Breed Crime

Starr County Attorney Victor Canales says that 8-liners breed crime and corruption. Canales says that the gaming machine prey on low-income players, who hope to double their money to pay bills. Yet the odds are stacked against them, all-the-more so because the machines are unregulated.

8-liners exist in the shadows, so these businesses might not have the same protections one would expect in polite society. Canales added, “Patrons are subject to being held at gunpoint, taking their personal belongings and their money and they are left with no recourse.

For instance, in May 2014, a robbery took place at an 8-liner business in which gunmen took $2,000 in cash. When police arrived on the scene, all players had fled the building. Only the manager of the business remained, and he had injuries. The man claimed the robbers had kicked him in the face during the robbery.

Police in that situation seized 46 machines. This was one of the incidents which prompted the 3-month raid, as authorities are beginning to see an upswing in crime in areas where the 8-liners are found.

What Is an 8-Liner?

Eight-liners are gaming machines similar to slot machines. They are not illegal in Texas, so long as the establishment doesn’t pay in cash prizes. 8-liners have a high degree of luck to them, but some degree of strategy also applies, which also allows businesses to skirt the laws. These machines are supposed to be played for amusement or entertainment, but the owners make a profit off of them.

Many 8-liner businesses pay in prizes which are not cash. These might be food, tools, household items, or children’s toys. Some businesses are rumored to work like Japanese pachinkos parlors, where a person wins a prize inside the building, but someone outside the building will buy the prize from you for cash. When an 8-liner parlor skirts the law too much, local law enforcement is known to shut them down and seize the gaming machines. Despite this, many smaller Texas communities are known to have 8-liner arcades or a handful of machines in convenience stores.

Other states skirt laws with similar operations. Georgia, which has little in the way of legal land-based gambling, has video terminals for amusement, which are similar to 8-liners.

Starr County Sheriff’s Office

Starr County Sheriff Rene “Orta” Fuentes took over in October 2008 after the previous sheriff, Reymundo Guerra, was arrested. When Rey Guerra was indicted on corruption charges, he was the second Starr County sheriff in a row to face a prison sentence. Since he took over the job, Fuentes has tried to reestablish his county’s reputation for fairness and honesty.

Reymundo Guerra was indicted on charges he helped the Gulf Coast Cartel smuggle marijuana and cocaine into the country through his remote Texas county. The sheriff and 14 others were indicted after a federal investigation, named “Operation Carlito’s Weigh”, revealed the corruption. At the time, U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said the investigation was part of a wider crackdown on Gulf Cartel operatives andassociates. At the time of the indictments, the crackdown had led to 175 arrests.

The judge in the case, Federal Judge Randy Crane, sentenced Fuentes to 5 years in federal prison for his role in the criminal activity. The judge stated the lighter sentence came because the sheriff’s role was minor, though significant in light of his responsibilities.

Judge Crane told Guerra, “It is a stain on the badge when someone in your high-level position engages in organized crime like this. For really pennies and nickels, you were influenced by these people.