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Authorities raid Fort Worth gaming center

State authorities raided the Aces Gaming Center in Fort Worth on Wednesday morning. Officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety, Fort Worth police and Tarrant County Sheriff's Office were at the center at Sylvania Avenue and Belknap Street at 11 a.m.

The centers are run by Dallas-based Aces Wired, which operates a growing chain of gaming centers from Fort Worth to San Antonio to Corpus Christi.

Aces officials have said that their system is legal because it does not reward players with cash or gift certificates, both of which are illegal in Texas. Instead, it rewards with "prize-points" on Ace Advantage Cards. Players can redeem the points at certain retailers by swiping them like a debit card.

However, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has called the "stored-value cards" illegal in a non-binding opinion.

Aces Wired Inc. reported about $18 million in revenue last year, though all but about $2.7 million came from its bingo supply company.

Through an attorney, Aces Wired officials released a statement early Wednesday afternoon vowing to defend the legality of their machines and provide employees with legal representation.

"We believe the actions taken today are completely without merit and have no legal basis and we look forward to our day in court," said Ken Griffith, president of Aces Wired. "We are confident our machines ... are expressly designed and deployed in a manner that is compliant with Texas law."

Officers dressed in black raid vests entered the Sylvania Avenue game room before 11 a.m., said John Turntine, 28, who works across the street at the Sylvania Professional Building.

"There were carloads of them, and they pulled up and hit it real quick," Turntine said. "Just kind of surprised me."

Turntine said he had been inside the game room only once but that the parking lot was often crowded.

"Last Friday evening it was so busy that people were parking behind other businesses," Turntine said. "They couldn't find spots in the lot. It seemed like there were doing well."

Police remained inside the center about noon. None of the machines had been removed.

This is not the first time Aces has met resistance from authorities. The company agreed to close game rooms in Amarillo and Killeen after authorities there threatened criminal investigations.

In November, Potter County filed a nuisance complaint against Aces, alleging the game center in Amarillo was "habitually used for gambling." The complaint was part of a gentleman's agreement with Aces not to pursue criminal charges if Aces shut down until a judge ruled on the civil nusiance complaint.

A trial for that complaint is set for September.