Illegal gaming room bust in North Austin

Thursday, Austin police made their sixth illegal gambling bust in just the last two months.

Police said the front Balcones Bingo room is licensed and operating legally, but the back game room was not and they shut it down Thursday.

Austin police received a tip that there was illegal gambling going on at the Balcones Bingo Game Room. 

"We conducted an undercover operation where we sent an officer in to verify that they are illegally gambling," said Sgt. Bob Miljenovich of the Austin Police Department Vice Unit.

Police said the Lottery Commission confirmed the game room did not have the correct license to operate  as a gambling facility. The owner told officers he was giving profits to charities, but police said that's not true.

"None of these game rooms that we've come across so far have been legal," Miljenovich said. 

Police said there is no exact count of how many illegal game rooms exist in Austin.

"There are a lot. There's some that are very obvious and they have signs like this one. They're very obvious to see. There's other ones that are much more discreet. They don't put up signs, you kind of have to know about them, or hear about them from someone else. Some of them move periodically. They set up shop for a little bit and then they move around, but they are scattered throughout the city," said Miljenovich.

The odds at game rooms are often manipulated.

"A lot of them don't operate legitimately in the sense that the odds aren't even. The computers and machines that they use, the odds are actually rigged so they're even more in favor of management than what they would normally be if it was just fair," Miljenovich said. 

Police said the biggest problem is that illegal gambling sites often lead to other violent crimes.

"We've found narcotics activity, robberies, assaults, people have been shot at games rooms, and that's the kind of activity that we don't want to see escalated," said Miljenovich.

It's difficult for officers to take down every illegal game room in the city.

"Part of the problem is there's a whole bunch of these places but the police department, like other agencies, they're limited on resources. So we're working these, as well as other locations, and we want to make sure we're doing investigations properly," Miljenovich said.

Illegal game room owners are usually charged with keeping a gambling place - a Class C misdemeanor. That carries a maximum penalty of $4,000 and one year in jail.

Anyone caught illegally gambling can also be charged with a Class C misdemeanor.

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