By Michael Aaron
TYLER – From game rooms to gas stations, Tyler police say they have seen a surge in illegal gambling operations recently. Now, officers are cracking down.
Chief Jimmy Toler said his officers have been going inside businesses across the city to look for illegal gambling devices.
“We’re seeing an explosion of stores and different companies in town that are starting to put these machines in,” Toler said. “And with it we’re seeing an uptick in crime in these areas.”
Those crimes include robberies at two Tyler game rooms and narcotics-related offenses, Toler said.
Investigators have either seized machines or their hard drives from four locations since November 30. All of the cases remain under investigation.
November 30: Undercover officers removed gaming machines from a business on Lindsey Lane. The signage outside the building reads “Game Room.”
December 5: Undercover officers seized five suspected illegal gambling machines from the Texaco gas station at Paluxy and Loop 323.
December 10: Undercover investigators took five suspected gambling machines from a Valero gas station at the intersection of Old Chandler Highway (Hwy 31) and Loop 323.
December 10: Officers found three suspected illegal gaming machines at an Exxon gas station at the intersection of East Commerce Street and Loop 323.
Police arrested 38-year-old John Borgstedt, the owner of the game room on Lindsey Lane. He was charged with possession of a gambling device.
“We don’t want any facilities within the city of Tyler to operate these machines illegally,” Toler said. “We ask people to be aware of impact they have on the community around them.”
Toler said many machine owners who think they are operating legally as a sweepstakes are actually breaking the law.
“A lot of these operate in a gray area where it’s easy to cross over from legality to illegality,” he said.
In wake of the recent crackdown, Toler said TPD has seen a large number of game room operators shut down or pull gambling machines on their own.
He said TPD officers have been checking game rooms to see if they’re operating legally and will continue checking locations across the city.