Officials unhappy as 8-liner reopens

LYFORD — Nearly two years after it was raided, a game room is back in business.

Horseshoe Entertainment will re-open despite some city commissioners’ objections, City Attorney Rick Hoffman said yesterday.

“It’s frustrating,” Willacy County Sheriff Larry Spence said.

In May 2017, the sheriff’s department along with officials from the Willacy and Cameron county district attorneys’ offices raided the game room off Interstate 69 after an undercover operation found it handing out illegal cash prizes, authorities said at the time. Charges were later dismissed.

The city’s ordinance prohibits game room from reopening after they have closed.

However, Hoffman argued the game room did not close on its own volition.

“My opinion was that neither the city nor the owner did anything to close it down,” he said.

Hoffman said the game room’s owner planned to go back into business.

“They continued to pay fees to the city,” he said, referring to the period in which the game room did not operate.

Instead, raids conducted by outside law enforcement agencies forced the game room to close, Hoffman said.

“The county shut it down,” he said. “The county took machines so they couldn’t operate.”

Hoffman noted charges against the game room were dismissed.

“Everybody was operating according to law,” he said.

The city’s decision flustered Spence.

“You want to tackle some more but you see the results and you think, ‘Why go through it?’” he asked.

Spence noted he spent time and money to launch the undercover operation that led to the raid.

“It takes a lot of time to put a team together to do this,” he said.

Raids leave El Toro closed

In Lyford, the game room is the second to close following raids.

In January, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s investigative unit worked with local authorities to raid the El Toro game room.

That raid marked the second time since October 2018 that federal agents raided El Toro, one of the biggest game rooms in Willacy County.

Spence said an undercover operation found the game room handed out illegal cash prizes.

Meanwhile, two other game rooms continue to do business in town.

Four Sebastian game rooms remain open

For years, authorities have worked to crack down on the county’s game rooms. Early last year, county commissioners approved a tough new ordinance that led eight game rooms to shut down in Sebastian.

However, four of those game rooms reopened after a judge granted their requests for temporary restraining orders last August.

In Sebastian, many residents continue to wait for the game rooms’ Aug. 19 trial.