SAN BENITO — City Commissioners on Monday stopped eight-liner operations in town, at least until Cameron County authorities complete their crack down on game rooms that illegally pay cash, officials said.
At a special meeting, commissioners unanimously voted to approve a moratorium to freeze the issue of new eight-liner permits here. Permits to operate the town’s 12 game rooms expired March 31.
District Attorney Luis Saenz asked commissioners to approve the moratorium until authorities complete Operation Bishop, a crackdown that his office began earlier this month. Saenz said he did not know when the action will be finished.
“I need your help,” Saenz said after commissioners met with City Attorney Rick Morado for an hour in closed session. “In order for us to stem the tide, we’ve got to at least close the gate.”
Saenz said the eight-liner business “breeds crime” in a county where about 200 game rooms make $300 million to $350 million a year. The county’s smallest operations make about $5,000 a day, he said.
Mayor Joe Hernandez has said the city receives about $200,000 a year from eight liner permits.
Drug cartels use eight liners to launder money, Saenz told commissioners.
“It leads to home invasions, robberies, assaults, thefts,” Saenz said later. The industry “drains” the county of much as $350 million and “takes advantage” of residents in this low-income area.
“They’ve got machines set up to pay off,” Saenz said.
Jerry Cortez said he closed his Los Fresnos game room on April 12, the day a county task force raided five eight-liners in Harlingen, La Feria, Brownsville and Olmito.
“The word’s out that they’re not going to allow game rooms in Cameron County,” Cortez said outside the meeting. He had worked in the eight-liner business for about seven years.
“Some do business the right way and some do it crooked,” Cortez said. “I see it as adult entertainment. Gambling is an addiction, like drugs. You’ve got to know your limit. You’re not forced to go to game rooms. You go on your own will.”