Eight stores in Mineral Wells saw their eight-liner machines seized Friday in a joint effort between the Mineral Wells Police Department and the Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Department.

On Friday, customers attempting to visit the stores heard a constant refrain of, “The stores are closed. They’ll be open in a little while,” while officials seized the alleged gambling machines.

The eight stores involved in Friday’s raid were all three Just Smokes locations – 2020 South Oak Ave., 615 North Oak Ave. and 112 Garrett Morris Parkway, Mineral Wells Corner Stop at 1703 E. Hubbard Street, JAM Food Store at 1300 South Oak Ave., Kwik Discount Store at 715 S.E. 6th Ave., Korner Stop Grocery at 716 S.E. 6th Ave. and Kwik Discount Grocery Store at 2320 U.S. Highway 180 West.

Mineral Wells Police Capt. Mike McAllester said the seizures were the result of an investigation the two departments have worked on for some time.

“Over the past three weeks, officers of both departments have come into the eight locations and played the machines,” McAllester said, “and gambling cases have been made at the same locations.”

The public initially alerted the police department to the illegal use of the eight-liners in the different locations.

“We had some complaints by citizens,” McAllester said.

Based on the results of their investigation, law enforcement obtained warrants from the district judge to seize the gambling devices as well as cash used in alleged gambling. As of late Friday afternoon, officials didn’t have a total for the monies they seized, though 24 machines were removed from the various premises.

While eight-liners that operate by dispensing non-cash merchandise prizes, toys or novelty items are not illegal, Attorney General Greg Abbott issued a statement in 2003 that said that exchanging credit tickets for cash doesn’t exempt the machines from gambling law nor does dispensing gift certificates or cash for play on another machine qualify as “non-cash merchandise prizes.”

McAllester said while eight-liners aren’t illegal themselves, the manner and amount of payoff can change that.

Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer noted that one player who was interviewed said they won $600 in cash from one location.

A passerby who watched officials guard the door at one location remarked that she’d played the machines but the most she’d ever won was $10.

McAllester said they have conducted eight-liner busts before though they’ve “never raided any of the locations [targeted Friday].”

“We intend to follow through with this at other locations in the county,” Mercer said. “We intend for this to serve notice as to what is illegal and what’s not. There’s a way to operate these machines that’s legal.”

McAllester said that all the locations were secured by approximately 1 p.m. and they didn’t receive any arguments from store employees. By approximately 5:30 p.m., law enforcement finished up seizing the last of the eight-liners. Officials said that the machines will be stored for now as “the future of the machines will be determined later.”

Though no arrests were made at any locations Friday, he noted that they plan on filing charges against the owners or operators at a later date. Promotion or possession of gambling devices is a Class A misdemeanor.

Though he didn’t play the eight-liners, Terrell Whitmire remarked, “I think most of these businesses were aware the law could come in and take them [machines].”

“A lot of people came in here,” said Lisa King, a customer at the Korner Stop Grocery. “I never played [but] there was always somebody at them playing.”

“It’s still gambling [with cash prizes] but if they give merchandise, it’s okay. That’s just like getting a bonus for anything,” remarked fellow customer Laura McAtee. “If you’re going to gamble, go to Las Vegas or Louisiana.”

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