Sheriff's deputies early Friday arrested 15 people and seized 300 "eight-liner" gaming machines in what they say is their largest raid ever on illegal gambling sites in Tarrant County.
The operation began around 3:30 a.m. at five game rooms on Jacksboro Highway in a peninsula that juts into Lake Worth, between the cities of Lakeside and Lake Worth.
Deputies also seized an estimated $40,000 in cash from the five businesses, said Chief Mike Simonds of the Tarrant County Sheriff's Office.
Eight-liner machines are not illegal as long as they award non-cash prizes worth no more than $5 or 10 times the "wager," whichever is less, Terry Grisham, the sheriff's spokesman, said in a news release.
Gameroom operators break the law, however, by paying cash awards, Grisham said.
"All five of these locations are violating the law by paying cash out to their customers as they win playing these slot machines," Simonds said. "They may claim ignorance of the law but they know exactly what they're doing.
"One reason it's so obvious is that they restrict admittance to individuals they know and who have memberships. They're trying to keep police out. They know they can't operate these game rooms under strict laws and still make any money."
Deputies were preparing to have the machines taken away in trucks throughout the day. About 40 deputies participated in the raids, the chief said.
The five game rooms were located within a a quarter mile of each other, Simonds said.
Included were the O.K, Arcade, the Pot of Gold, the I Don't Care, the Beach House and Southern Gold.
A few of the arrested people were brought into custody on charges that they illegally operated the eight-liner machines, a misdemeanor offense punishable by fines and jail time, Simonds said.
Most of the people, however, were arrested for outstanding warrants.
"Of course some people who were inside gambling were issued citations and allowed to leave," Simonds said. "A few people ran from the location as we were pulling up. We were not able to secure all of them because we had to stay focused on issuing the search warrants."