HOUSTON (KTRK) --Investigators with the Harris County Constable Precinct 5 and Precinct 1, along with the Houston Police Department, raided a suspected illegal gambling operation Thursday night and only Eyewitness News was there.
Officers served a search warrant on the Variety Game Room, located on Club Creek near Beechnut, after 8pm. Investigators cut open about 80 gaming machines and seized cash and motherboards from inside.
"It becomes gambling when the person pays you off. By state law, you cannot receive cash," explained Sgt. Mike Hill with the Houston Police Department. "It's not about catching them gambling. It's about the safety of the community."
Eyewitness News got exclusive access as investigators collected evidence from inside the game room, which is located in the middle of a strip center. Police are familiar with the location because it was robbed in May and there was a shooting in the parking lot last week. Hill said illegal gambling operations can attract crime because criminals know people carry cash.
Hill pointed out empty boxes of household items, covered in dust, which sat on top of or near the game machines.
"They're not actually performing the amusement redemption. They're gambling."
Variety at one time had a permit to operate as an amusement redemption room only. However, a permit located during the raid indicated it had expired in April. Two security guards were arrested for allegedly violating the game room ordinance, which is a class A misdemeanor.
Many times people who gamble in illegal game rooms are taken advantage of and never receive their winnings, investigators said. Houston police receive many calls from people complaining the business owners wouldn't pay up, Hill said. The 15 people who were playing games when investigators moved in were given warnings. Hill explained that it's similar to when an officer has the discretion to give a driver a warning for running a stop sign.
Investigators are still working to determine who owns the Variety Game Room. More charges could be filed in this case.