A recent multi-tasked force raid on an illegal gambling establishment masquerading as an auto parts business revealed there is an unlawful gaming problem in the area.
The Chambers County Sheriff’s Office, working with the Baytown Police Department, raided Bubba’s Redneck Racing Parts June 21 at 8220 North State Highway 146. A total of 41 8-liner machines had been converted to pay out cash. They also seized approximately $8,000 in U.S. currency, financial documents, gaming control boards and gambling propaganda.
But that appears to be only one of many in the vicinity.
Lt. Steve Dorris, Baytown police spokesman, said over the past 18 months, his department’s Special Operations Unit has successfully conducted about 12 of these types of investigations in and around Baytown.
“I say successful investigations because we were able to infiltrate and ultimately shut down those establishments,” Dorris said. “What we have found is due to the fact that we aggressively pursue these places, many have chosen to move outside the city limits, mistakenly thinking we will not continue to pursue them.”
Dorris said the gambling operations might not seem to be as prevalent as they once were, but they are still out there.
“But like every other criminal enterprise, they’ve gotten smarter about how they do business in an effort to elude law enforcement detection and prevent infiltration,” Dorris said. “These types of places can be breeding grounds for other types of illegal activity such as drugs, prostitution and robberies, given the large amounts of cash that move through these illegal gambling establishments. We have even had investigations that indicated there were theft rings and gang members operating out of some. As you can imagine, all of these issues can create a quality of life concern for our citizens.”
This is not just in Baytown. Lt. Robert Strause with the Orange County Sheriff Office said they have the same issue.
“We do have a lot of illegal gambling over here, and we’ve been doing the best we can to work cases on individuals that are setting up these gambling locations,” Strause said. “It is an ongoing thing.”
Strause said dangers related to the illegal gambling establishments should cause concern with any citizen.
“We are finding that most of these places cater to people that are selling drugs out of them,” Strause said. “Some of the patrons are selling drugs out of there, and we have numerous cases of people coming out of there with drugs, and there have been robberies.”
Strause added there are crimes committed in the establishments that go unreported since no one wants the illegal activities to be exposed.
Dorris emphasized citizens should understand it is important for law enforcement to aggressively pursue and shut these places down.
“The answer is simple really - we do not want to wait until the other illegal activity takes a foothold in our community or someone gets injured or tragically killed in a botched robbery before we act,” Dorris said. “We want to be proactive in addressing the issue before it becomes a major problem. That is why we aggressively pursue these establishments.”
Strause said one of the things that attract people to patron the illegal gambling locations is the odds of winning can be higher.
“And it is closer,” he said. “And a lot of elderly people use their Social Security checks and gamble away their money. Some folks have older adults and parents doing that, and that is a concern.”
Strause said they often find used syringes in the parking lots of the illegal gambling establishments.
“We get complaint after complaint about these places,” he said.
Dorris said if someone suspects there is an illegal gambling establishment in the community, contact the Special Operations Unit Vice Supervisor at 281-420-6632 or contact Crimestoppers at 281-427-TIPS, where they can remain anonymous.