So in this morning's edition of the Brazosport Factless, my local newsrag published a letter I had written about how Chief Neil Longbotham had stolen over one hundred thousand dollars worth of cash and video poker machines from a local "Eight Liner" parlor that had been found to be paying out cash prizes.
Also on the opinions page was an op-ed piece by Ms. Yvonne Mintz of the Brazosport Facts, telling me and the countless others who were disgusted about this obvious theft by a "public servant" that our anger is "misplaced" and should be directed toward our state legislature.
While I am angry at my legislature in general anyway, I do firmly understand that they could honestly care less about the wants and wishes of the People of the State of Texas...unless those people are so pissed off at their legislators that they're chasing them down the road with pitchforks.
Regardless, our LOCAL officials deal with what is going on LOCALLY. The reason I am disgusted by the confiscation of a man's personal property (other than, of course, Chief Longbotham's inability to be publicly honest about it, saying that he raided the place to "protect the public"), is that our local officials can and do have the authority to decide what priorities to place on certain things within the arena of their respective offices.
Ms. Mintz's own article provides plenty of reason to be very upset about this...not with the legislature, but with the local law enforcement and the county DA's office.
I used to work at one of these "eight-liner parlors" when I was in college, and I know for a fact that they DO NOT STAY IN BUSINESS WHILE OPERATING WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF THE LAW. Let there be no mistake about it, you do not run a video gambling joint legally without going broke. It just does not happen. While this may have been possible ten or fifteen years ago, the laws have been changed within the past decade in a manner that makes these places a no-win situation for everyone involved...unless the relationship between the house and the player crosses the line of the law.
Prior to laws being changed (or possibly just clarified), an eight-liner parlor was forbidden to pay out in cash...but it was able to pay out in the form of "gift certificates" that could be worth a maximum of $5 in game credits or merchandise. The way it worked was simple...they couldn't pay you in cash, but they could give you a $600 television if you had saved up 120 of these $5 certificates. Often, the player would show the house a newspaper flier of the merchandise desired, and someone working for the house would go purchase it, bring it back to the game room, and help load it up for the customer.
After the law was updated, they still couldn't pay you in cash...and now, the maximum value of any prize was $5. You could no longer collect a stack of 100 certificates and trade them for a prize worth $500, you now had to trade them in for 100 prizes worth $5 each. Anyone stupid enough to continuously pump $20 bills into a machine for hours at a time, with no possibility of actually winning anything bigger than a $5 plastic trinket, likely wouldn't have that kind of money to begin with. The law, in effect, turned what was once legalized gambling into an overrated video game arcade.
Game rooms are typically open 24/7. That's AT LEAST five grand a month in payroll, provided you have only one attendant on duty at any given time...and that attendant is only making minimum wage. Then you have the light bills. Do you have any idea how much power consumption goes on when you have 50 computers sitting side by side? Don't forget about the complimentary snacks and drinks that are often provided for the players, because most municipalities require a permit to sell food/drinks. Then there's the lease or mortgage on the building, if you don't own it outright. Most importantly, don't forget about paying your annual taxes on each coin-operated gaming machine.
You're looking at an overhead of at least eight grand a month, which means you have to be pulling in about $300 every 24 hours. That's just to break even. This is required EVERY SINGLE DAY, regardless of how jacked up the economy is, or whether it's a Tuesday night, or the county fair is in town, or whatever other reason there may be for people not coming into your game room. If you have more than one employee, you're going to need to bring more dollars into those machines.
Simply put, you're going to have one hell of a hard time getting enough people into your game room spending that kind of money on what is essentially an obnoxiously noisy Nintendo game, without breaking the law. Grown folks just are not going to come into a game room and pump $50 into a machine for the prospect of winning a trinket worth $5. Seriously, you can't even buy a Barbie doll for $5 anymore. What kind of prizes are these people giving away? Keychains and beer koozies, maybe?
Okay, so now we've established that EVERY eight liner parlor is breaking the law. Yes, every single one of them. Here's why it shouldn't matter...
IT'S NOT HURTING ANYONE! THAT'S RIGHT, IT'S NOT HURTING ANYONE AT ALL!
Interestingly enough, Ms. Mintz tells us that investigations, such as the one resulting in the THEFT (you'll notice I don't use the word "confiscation", because "confiscation" is simply theft by a government employee) of over one hundred thousand dollars worth of cash and video gambling devices, required the use of an informant and took several months of surveillance.
According to the original article, Chief Longbotham was quoted as saying that several "complaints" had been made to the police department about this establishment paying cash to its players. Okay, really? Come on. Who calls the police to complain about a video game parlor paying cash to its customers? Obviously, it isn't the police department themselves, otherwise that statement would be a complete and total lie...which would leave only two other options.
Either A) the complaint was made by a player that lost his rent money for the month in hopes that he would score big, or B) the complaint was made by the owners of another game room. Either way, I continue to ask...who was harmed by paying cash to the players?
Absolutely NO ONE that didn't wantonly and willingly put himself into a position to lose money. You're a complete idiot, if you think the house doesn't have an advantage in "games of chance". The odds of winning any casino-style game are severely stacked in favor of the house. With any computer-based game (such as video poker, keno, slots, et cetera), the odds can actually be manipulated via the game's processor chips...ironically, most avid players even know this, and continue to play.
But now, I ask this...if a man is willing to risk losing his rent money for the chance of winning it back five-fold, is the house he's betting against not also running the risk of losing more money, even if the odds are stacked in favor of the house? If so, is this not a mutually agreed-upon contractual relationship?
Keep that in mind, and now ask yourself this: Are there not other problems that thousands of dollars worth of man-hours and resources could not be spent on, especially when these problems involve crimes against people and property?
As a police chief, is it not Longbotham's responsibility to his community to more wisely utilize his department's resources in a manner that actually IS "protecting the public", as opposed to wasting them on something as petty as arresting someone for paying cash prizes at an eight-liner parlor?
I know there are worse places to live, but I also know for a fact that burglary and thievery goes on in the city of Brazoria. You know it, I know it, and the police chief knows it. What's more important, protecting the private property of the citizens you are paid to serve, or attempting to enforce legislated morality in a manner that the majority of the public does not agree with by STEALING the private property of the citizens you are paid to serve?
Should we hold our legislature responsible for outlawing video poker? Absolutely, but the officers who enforce these laws are equally culpable, as are the district attorneys who prosecute these cases. Without investigators and prosecutors, such laws are utterly useless.
Since the newspaper article has stated that arrests will be coming soon (for all I know, they've already been made), I suppose the only recourse the owner of Jacks R Better will have is a sympathetic jury.
Regardless of this, the majority of people in Texas support legalized gambling. When faced with choices for our legislature, however, we are far too often given candidates that place legalized gambling at the bottom of their list of priorities (where it probably should be, were it not for our budget problems and the possibility of the metric shitloads of tax money we could be bringing in for the state through legalized gambling). Because it isn't a "hot-button issue", it isn't being used as a campaign promise. As such, our legislators don't want to be known as "the guy that wants to bring in gambling", because his re-election opponents will seize on this as an opportunity to claim that such a legislature is attempting to destroy the "family values of Texas" or some such nonsense.
I probably wouldn't have cared about any of this, as I'm not a gambler and don't even live in the city of Brazoria. I was, however, just a bit miffed when I saw Chief Neil Longbotham being quoted as saying he was shutting the gaming parlor down to "protect the public"...because I know that statement is complete and utter bullshit.