Four businesses in Frankston were raided last week --- the results of a six-month undercover investigation by the Frankston Police Department into illegal gaming.
At roughly 9 p.m. Friday, FPD officers, assisted by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and Anderson County constables, conducted raids on four suspected illegal gambling operations.
FPD Capt. Jeff Taylor told the Herald-Press officers identified patrons who might have been conducting other illegal activity while gaming.
“One individual, who was in possession of narcotics, was wanted on a warrant by another agency,” Taylor said. “He was taken to Anderson County Jail.”
The belief that illegal gaming leads to other crimes has driven recent crackdowns by several agencies on gaming establishments.
Palestine Police Chief Andy Harvey, whose department executed multiple raids on similar businesses last year, told the Herald-Press he had seen violent crimes at gaming establishments – sometimes without warning.
“People come in – lose – and they need cash,” Harvey said, following a January 2018 raid. “That's when crimes start to happen.”
Gaming and slot machines are legal in Texas – if the prizes are small non-cash items, such as coffee pots, merchandise, and food from the business housing the gambling machines.
FPD officials said the raided business were not operating legally. Nearly 60 illegal, casino-like gambling machines and roughly $16,000 in cash were seized.
Frankston Mayor Gerald Hall told the Herald-Press the FPD operation had been active prior to his election in May, but he has supported eliminating what he calls the “blight of illegal gaming establishments.”
“It's illegal,” Hall said. “And it was bringing in a group of people we didn't want. The city has had lots of complaints about it, even before I was elected mayor.”
Hall said law enforcement officers did a fine job during the raid. “I will back our police completely,” he said. “We are all very interested in keeping our residents safe.”
FPD officials said the most recent raids are just the start. Numerous arrest warrants will follow, which didn't happen with Palestine's raids last year.
Don Reddell, owner of Rural Internet Services, was raided in Palestine in February and October of last year. Damages to his property and seized computers amounted to a loss of more than $10,000, Reddell said. Still, Reddell was never charged with a crime.
Reddell could have attempted to recover his losses through the courts, but said he didn't because of excessive legal costs.
Police can auction the equipment and keep the proceeds when an owner doesn't fight the forfeiture or loses in court.
Taylor said the FPD, with the help of the Anderson County District Attorney's Office, plans to file all applicable criminal charges agains those operating illegal gaming businesses.
Anderson County DA Allyson Mitchell assisted the investigation, Taylor said. “Working together like this can really make our city and county a safer and better place.”