by WES FERGUSON
Authorities raided four “sweepstakes parlors” in Lockhart on June 1, seized cash and gambling devices and issued more than 100 citations to patrons for illegal gambling, the Caldwell County district attorney reports.
Lockhart police officers Jesse Garcia, left, and Haley Fuller remove gaming devices from a “sweepstakes parlor” in Caldwell County during a June 1 raid. COURTESY PHOTO
Across the county line, however, Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe is taking a gentler approach to a sweepstakes room operated by Johnny Adams in Kyle.
“I have informed him it would be best if he could shut down as soon as possible,” Tibbe said. “We haven’t conducted an investigation, but I have made it known that those types of operations are illegal.”
Adams has been instructed to shutter his business when his lease expires in September, allowing him time to “get his business interests in order,” Tibbe said.
Sweepstakes rooms have been popping up around Texas in recent months. At the rooms, gamers sit at video terminals that simulate slot machines, and they click buttons for points that can be redeemed for cash. Before the city of Kyle would allow Adams to open his gaming room in April, Police Chief Jeff Barnett investigated similar operations and determined that as far as he could tell, they were legal under a loophole in state law.
Tibbe disagreed with his assessment, as did Lockhart, DPS and Caldwell County authorities who seized more than $5,200 in cash and 160 computerized gambling devices during the June 1 sweep of four Lockhart sweepstakes rooms.
One of those establishments was KB Foundation of Texas Sweepstakes on State Park Road. The sweepstakes room in Kyle is also affiliated with KB Foundation of Texas.
Caldwell County prosecutors say they will seek to indict the four operators on Class A misdemeanor charges of gambling promotion and keeping a gambling place. The 106 sweepstakes patrons caught up in the raid were ticketed for gambling, a Class C misdemeanor, and they face up to $300 in fines and court costs.
Lockhart Police Chief Mike Lummus said the investigation took three or four months and involved undercover officers playing the sweepstakes games.
“If the house is taking a cut or a profit, that’s what makes it illegal,” he said. “That’s what also makes it legal for you to have all your buddies over to have a poker game. You can have hundreds of dollars in the pot, but it all pays back out, and the house doesn’t keep any.”
When asked to comment on his business in Kyle last week, Adams first said he had discussed his operation with the district attorney and everything was fine. He then admitted he was told to shut down when his lease expired. He accused the Hays Free Press of printing lies about his business in a previous news article, threatened legal action and told a reporter to leave and not come back.
WES FERGUSON is editor of the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted through a news partnership between the Free Press and the San Marcos Mercury.