2018-02-07 / Front Page

Lyford maquinitas to remain in business


Owners of four remaining

8-liner gaming halls operating in Lyford paid hefty city fees by their Jan. 31 deadline and can continue in business, city officials said.

One “maquinita,” Horseshoe Entertainment, located in the former Nell’s Event Center/ Gonzalez Ballroom building on the I-69E southbound frontage road, remains closed after a raid by a Cameron County task force last May.

Local authorities, including Lyford Police Department, were not included in the raid by Cameron County DA Luis Saenz’s “Operation Bishop” group. He dubbed the Willacy County raid as “Operation Bishop North.

Now, Willacy DA Annette Hinojosa has formed a Willacy County task force that includes the Willacy County Sheriff’s Department, Raymondville Police Department and Lyford Police Department. That group recently raided two 8-liner halls in Sebastian and closed them down.

Even though the owners of Horseshoe Entertainment paid all their overdue Lyford city fees in December, city officials had changed their former practice of allowing annual fees of $15,000 for the hall and $20 for each machine to be paid in quarterly installments, Moreno said. Fees for 2018 had to be paid in full by Jan. 31 and Horseshoe Entertainment did not pay. When they did pay overdue 2017 city fees for 2017, the District Attorney’s Office still would not let them re-open.

Mayor Jose G. “Wally” Solis said the owner told him the gaming hall was closed because authorities mistakenly believed the business that cashed in silver bars from the hall was on the same lot as the gaming hall, which is unlawful, but the hall remains closed.

Although he is not opposed to gaming halls that operate legally, if they break the law, they will be closed down, Solis said.

“As long as they pay (city fees), it’s OK,” he said. The maquinitas do benefit the community by bringing in economic activity because they buy drinks such as sodas, food, paper products, cups, plates and other items, he said. Those purchases result in the city getting sales tax funds that go into city coffers, he said,

If the 8-liners get raided and shut down by a new Willacy County task force for alleged state anti-gambling law violations, he will support that action, Solis said

“I’m part of the task force (as mayor), if they’re (maquinitas) doing wrong, I’m going to support the task force,” he said. “The commissioners are going to support it, at least that’s what they said.”

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