Las Vegas comes to Lyford with 350 8-liners in new casino
BY TONY VINDELL
A coin-operated casinostyled gambling parlor has opened its doors in Lyford and the number of machines the single business has is almost two-thirds of what eight such establishments have in Raymondville.
The Lyford business, called Buena Suerte 777, applied to the city and registered 350 machines paying an annual business permit of $200 and $20 per machine a year,
The casino is in the El Toro Dance Hall at Business 77 and Holly Street.
Town officials are elated to have the new business that has brought $ 7,000 in annual revenues for a municipality that operates on a $1.3 million annual budget.
“As long as it’s legal, I have no problem with having a coinoperated business,” Mayor Henry De La Paz said. “I see it as a venue of entertainment and a source of revenues for the city.”
The gambling parlor is registered under the name of Tomas Mares of Harlingen.
On Monday, Lyford Police Chief Paul Campbell went to check the establishment and found that one of the machines did not have the city’s decal.
“ They just opened on Sunday,” he said. “I was told to go and check it to make sure everything is in order.”
Coin-operated machines have been a source of controversy for quite some time because the Texas Penal Code contain prohibitions against the various forms of gambling.
Part B of Section 47.01 of the code states that a gambling device “does not include any electronic, electromechanical, or mechanical contrivance designed, made, and adapted solely for bona fide amusement purposes if the contrivance rewards the player exclusively with non-cash merchandise prizes, toys, or novelties, or a representation of value redeemable for those items, that have a wholesale value available from a single play or game or device of no more than 10 times the amount charged to play the game or device once or $5, whichever is less.”
Part B is known as the fuzzy animal exception because coin- operated businesses used to reward patrons with fuzzy stuffed animals.
But according to Texas District & County Attorneys Association, an offense occurs when the machines are illegally used to award players with cash-related payouts or noncash payouts far in excess of what are allowed by Part B.
In this part of the state it is not uncommon to hear that some coin-operated businesses have payouts of up to $5,000 and more.
A coin-operated business owner openly said that if there is no cash reward, many patrons will stop playing.
State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D- Brownsville, said eightliners are illegal in Texas but only whenever monetary rewards are involved.
“The people in charge of enforcing the law are your district attorney and any local enforcement agency,” he said. “But the only winners, in the long run, of the coin-operated machines are the owners of these establishments, otherwise they would not be in that type of business.”
Lucio said it would be interesting to put the eight-liner issue to a referendum.
Bernard Ammerman, the district attorney in Willacy County, has repeatedly said his office can’t take action against eight-liners unless a case is brought to them by law enforcement.
The Lyford coin-operated business has 350 machines, compared to 538 machines registered with the city of Raymondville by the eight businesses in operation.
In Cameron County, however, there are 237 coinoperated businesses with 10,146 machines altogether, according to records provided by that county’s tax assessorcollector.