Gambling is having a resurgence, not only in the United States, but all over the world. In 2018, gambling revenues in the US reached more than $160 billion and experts predict that in the coming years this will have reached $200 billion.
But as the federal government and individual states are slow to regulate online gambling, the darker side of wagering is not only on a rise, it is rampant. At the time of this writing, online gambling is only legal in California, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is Texas where local authorities are paranoid about regulating online gambling. Consequently, illegal gambling is rampant in the Lone Star State with shady establishments popping up all over the state.
Millions of dollars seized by authorities
Four men in Corpus Christi in southern Texas were indicted on August 20, 2020, on four counts of running an illegal gambling business and conspiracy to commit money laundering. During the investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, authorities seized several million dollars, gold bars and several vehicles, including a Lamborghini.
The suspects could be put behind bars in a federal prison up to 20 years and fined up to $500,000. A press release from the U.S. attorney’s office says that the illegal gambling business has been operating from March 13, 2018, to August 1, 2019.
“According to the indictment, Nathan Nichols, Richard Nunez, Richard Conlon and Douglas Wells concealed and disguised the nature, location, source, ownership and control of the illegal gambling proceeds,” the statement read.
Family in Pharr arrested
A husband, wife and two of their children were arrested in Pharr for operating an illegal gambling operation in Pharr, right on the border to Mexico. They also ran a car dealership without a license and sold vehicles for cash payments.
The father, Manuale Ramiro Salvidar, his wife Noemi Briseno, their son Marcus Rene Salvidar and daughter Serina Briesno have been charged with a long laundry list of organized criminal activities such as money laundering, gambling promotion, keeping a gambling place and possession of gambling devices/equipment/paraphernalia.
If all charges will stick, they are likely to go to prison for a long time and probably face fines in the millions considering the scale of their operation in a town of a mere 70,000 in population. As we all know, Texas is all about size and the size of a town or city’s population doesn’t matter much when it comes to illegal gambling.
Gaming machines seized across the state
In April, during the early onset of the coronavirus outbreak, Police in Dallas seized almost a dozen illegal gaming machines and almost $50,000 in cash at two different businesses. The machines themselves are not illegal to own or operate as long as players are only offered prizes like toys and novelty items valued no more than 10 times the amount staked on a single bet. This was not the case here.
Edinburg and Laredo were also raided by sheriffs and other law enforcement officers in the early months of 2020. These raids specifically targeted so-called eight-liner machines which allow players to win if they can line up symbols horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.
Almost 50 machines were confiscated in several different locations and a total of $11,712, which is a mere drop in the virtual ocean of money flowing through illegal gambling establishments across the state.