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8-Liner nightmare:Two Willacy game rooms shut down

October 10, 2018

LYFORD — Two down.

The El Toro game room, the city’s largest eight-liner arcades, has shut down following last week’s raid spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, the Silver Dollar game room has apparently closed after the theft of about $6,000.

The two game rooms’ closures have cut down the number of eight-liner arcades operating in this farm county that has been described by some as “Little Las Vegas.”

“ It’s another step in the right direction of ridding the county of illegal criminal activity,” Stanley Gonzales, who helped lead a push to shut down the county’s game rooms, said yesterday.

Earlier this year, the county allowed a game room to legally operate in Lasara and another to do business in Sebastian.

Meanwhile, a tough new ordinance approved in February led eight game rooms to shut down in Sebastian.

However, four Sebastian game rooms reopened after a judge granted their requests for temporary restraining orders.

Now, a hearing in those cases has been set for Dec. 27.

For years, the El Toro game room has been the largest in the city where three other eight-liner arcades continue to do business.

“ For quite some time, they were going pretty strong,” Willacy County Sheriff Larry Spence said yesterday, referring to Lyford’s game rooms.

His department’s push to oversee a surge of new game rooms in Sebastian led Lyford’s eight-liner arcades to operate without increased law enforcement pressure.

“ On weekends, it gets pretty crowded all the way to the street with the parking,” Spence said of El Toro’s popularity.

Then on Thursday, Homeland Security, the Texas Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement agencies raided the game room after it apparently paid out illegal cash prizes, Spence said.

It was unclear why Homeland Security, which could not be reached for comment yesterday, became involved in the raid.

“ I welcome the assistance of the feds,” Gonzales said. “Maybe this is the winning combination to shutting them all down.”

In the last few years, local law enforcement agencies had raided the game room twice, Spence said.

But that did not stop the game room from reopening.

“ It’s a real positive step for the citizens of Willacy County,” Gonzales, a retired college instructor who lives just outside Lyford, said, referring to the latest raid.

Meanwhile, the Silver Dollar has apparently closed after the theft of $6,000 about two weeks ago, Spence said.

The money was reportedly stolen from the game room’s pay-out booth.

The case remains under investigation.

fdelvalle@valleystar.com

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