AUSTIN (KXAN) - The Austin Police Department Vice team shut down an illegal game room in South Austin Wednesday when a surprise inspection revealed the establishment was paying out cash to customers.
APD had received several complaints about the game room in the 5300 block of South Congress Avenue throughout the past year.
"A lot of times it's people that have lost money that are complaining to us because they want it shut down or they have a gambling problem," said Sgt. Keith Suitt.
Officers discovered more than $6,000 in cash and 22 illegal video gaming machines in the small room set back from the road on South Congress Avenue.
"This location is actually a medium-sized one; 20-22 games is average size," said Suitt. "What we discovered here, talking to the patrons and the clerks, is that illegal cash payouts were occurring."
Officers seized the cash and motherboards in the machines and will file charges against the operator of the game room.
"The reason that these places need to be shut down is because they attract all kinds of organized criminal activity," said Suitt. "They launder money; they attract aggravated assaults and robberies. It invites the wrong type of people into neighborhoods like this where folks live and where businesses try to operate."
The team has stepped up inspections on game rooms around the city after several violent incidents this year.
In one case, a game room operator was stabbed when a suspect tried to rob the place, knowing there was cash on hand.
Often, the illegal game rooms are popping up more quickly than the team can shut them down.
"Every person we talk to in these establishments, we tell them: 'These are all illegal. If we see you again, you will receive a citation or go to jail,'" said Suitt.
The patrons often are not charged in exchange for their cooperation with investigators.
Many times, the operators in these cases are just renting out the property, while the property owners may not know what is going on. But if they do and then continue to allow the illegal operation, they can face criminal charges as well.
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