Just as we were trying to figure out why there were internet cafes in Nederland and Port Arthur, we find out that the places were actually fronts for illegal gambling, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The department announced yesterday that six people were charged with running the gambling rooms and laundering money.
Starting in April 2007, the Justice Department investigated Dolphin Internet in Port Arthur and the Nederland Internet Cafe. The businesses, along with another place up in Henderson, brought in $4.3 million from the gambling operations, according to the feds.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Beaumont didn't have much to say because the case is ongoing, but a representative did say, "I know it was a highly publicized case," apparently referring to the news coverage of the raids and arrests.
So, another highly publicized bust of gaming rooms, resulting in six arrests after a two and a half year investigation that involved law enforcement from two cities and two counties, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Unless we're missing the big payoff in this case, why not just legalize gambling?
"The difference would be that it would put a few extra dollars in state coffers and keep the cops from having to go in and take every nickel off every player [in illegal rooms] and start criminal proceedings," Tex Flanikan, membership director for the Texas Card Players Associaton, tells Hair Balls.
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Just the other day, we were talking to Frank Hopf, the simulcast racing director at Sam Houston Race Park, and he favors expanding the gambling operations at the track to include video slots or video poker machines. His argument was that Texas should stop sending money to Louisiana. Nothing new, but a valid point considering simulcast racing at Sam Houston brought in about $110 million in 2008, and a year earlier, Texans spent $2.3 billion at casinos in other states.
"I don't like the idea of signing up to go to Vegas for a week or ten days and pay an extra $3,000 or $4,000 just to enjoy a decent game of poker," Flaniken says.
Legislation to legalize gambling didn't go anywhere this year, but Flaniken has hopes for the future, saying that legalized gambling in Texas might happen in his lifetime.
"Quite a few people are going to play poker," he says. "With or without [legalization] it's going to happen."