Gambling Worsens Illegal Betting, Report Says
force urges crackdown on eight-liners
01/28/99 Dallas news Associated Press AUSTIN
The problem of illegal gambling in Texas is being compounded by
the spread of legal wagering, according to a new report. After 16 months of study, the Governor's Task Force on Illegal
Gambling issued its finding Wednesday, calling for a legislative crackdown
on "eight-liners," devices similar to slot machines that have
proliferated as a result of ambiguous state law. Underlying the gambling problem, according to the report, is
Texas' relatively recent retreat from bans on all forms of
gambling. The state lottery is exacting "substantial social costs,"
the report said. Texans, the task force said, have bought into a "national trend
toward accepting gambling as a revenue generator for states rather than
treating it as a crime to combat." Since the 1980s, Texas has created the lottery and legalized
pari-mutuel wagering on horse and dog racing. "The proponents of gambling have largely succeeded in
persuading the broader culture to accept gambling as a legitimate form of entertainment
rather than a vice," the task force said. "The impact, from a fiscal
perspective, has been enormous." Without quantifying it, the task force said the downside also has a
large bottom line, especially at the state's multibillion-dollar lottery.
"Its substantial social costs, however, while actual and acknowledged,
have yet to be accurately measured," the report said of the
lottery. Gov. George W. Bush appointed the task force in 1997 after lawmakers
failed to approve a Bush-backed bill aimed at ridding Texas of
eight-liners, which have spread across the state by the thousands and brought in
millions of dollars.
Sen. David Sibley, R-Waco, the task force chairman, told the
Austin American-Statesman that he will offer legislation again this year to
ban eight-liners. The 1997 effort died amid concerns from two groups: veterans and
other organizations that depend on the machines for revenue, and operators
of kids' arcade games that also could have been made illegal. Although many law enforcement officials believe eight-liners are
illegal under current law, some prosecutors say the current law is
ambiguous. The Amusement Music Operators of Texas, an organization whose
members include operators of eight-liners, also wants the law clarified.
"We believe they are legal," said group spokesman Joe Cutbirth. "But that's the Legislature's call. The Legislature wrote the
law, and we believed in good faith the law made them legal. If the Legislature
no longer believes they are legal, it needs to step forward and say so,"
Mr. Cutbirth said. He said the group's primary goal is a clarification "that will
let honest, taxpaying business owners operate in good faith without fear of the
threat of these Gestapo raids on their businesses." The task force report said state scrutiny of two Indian casinos in
El Paso and Eagle Pass led to the investigation of eight-liners. Mr. Sibley
said there is no doubt that the casinos are illegal.
"Neither is currently operating within the statutory
limitations of the [federal] Indian Gaming Regulatory Act or state gambling laws,"
the task force report said. The two tribes maintain the operations are legal
under federal law allowing them to operate any form of gambling legal in
The Tiguas, who run Speaking Rock Casino in El Paso, say their slot
machines are similar to state lottery games that use computers to generate
numbers for players.
The Kickapoos, who run Lucky Eagle Casino in Del Rio, say their
games - while they look like slot machines - merely dispense game tickets
similar to those legal at bingo halls.