Shootings highlight dangers at game rooms

Shootings highlight dangers at game rooms

Two recent shootings at game rooms in Port Arthur left two people wounded and highlight the dangers faced by players and operators at what police say are dens of illegal gambling and hotbeds of criminal activity.

On the night of June 21, officers with the Port Arthur Police Department responded to Mariano’s Food Mart at 3741 25th St. where a woman had been shot while closing the game room. The clerk, who was armed, reportedly fired back at the three black male suspects. Port Arthur police spokesperson LaRisa Carpenter said the woman was still hospitalized and in stable condition June 27. Carpenter indicated police had received information from the public and said officers are following up on leads.

The second game room shooting within a week’s time occurred at the Lucky Zone game room at 4448 Gulfway Drive in Port Arthur. Officers responded to the game room at 11:48 p.m. on June 25 following the aggravated robbery. One person was shot during the incident, spokesperson Carpenter described, and taken to Christus St. Elizabeth hospital in Beaumont for treatment of the injury, which was reportedly not life-threatening.

No arrests had been made in either incident at the time of this report.

Many area cities, including Beaumont and Vidor, have passed ordinances imposing restrictions meant to deter illegal gambling at game rooms using amusement redemption machines, commonly known as “8-liners,” and to keep patrons safer after multiple robberies and violent incidents occurred at several of the businesses.

The 8-liners are to be used only for amusement, not gambling. Legally, players can be offered prizes in value up to $5. Any amount over that is not legal, but people who frequent local game rooms know operators pay out a lot more than $5 in cash at a time. That is what they say keeps them coming back – and also what police say keeps criminals coming.

“Rose,” once a regular at area game rooms, told The Examiner in 2012 that she quit frequenting them after her habit caused her to become delinquent in paying bills and overdraw her bank account. She said the possibility of a big payout was the draw for her. She confirmed that she regularly received cash in excess of $5 at local gaming outlets.

“I didn’t win very often,” she said. “But when I did win, I wanted my cash.”

According to police, cash flows freely at the supposedly legitimate businesses practicing illegitimate business in the form of illegal gambling, making game rooms prime targets for criminals. Police have warned that drugs often accompany the illegal gambling and the crime associated with the businesses can be violent, as with the two shootings in Port Arthur.

 

Joseph Colone Jr. was sentenced to death May 8 after being found guilty by a jury of capital murder in relation to the 2010 shooting deaths of Mary Goodman Hernandez, 41, and her daughter Briana Goodman, 16. Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney Pat Knauth prosecuted the case and provided evidence that Colone murdered the woman and her teenage daughter because one of the victims had identified him as the perpetrator in a game room robbery. In another incident, patrol officers with the Beaumont Police Department responded to the reported aggravated robbery of D’s Gift Shop, a game room in the 3600 block of East Lucas, on the night of Sept. 17, 2013. A clerk working in the game room told officers that three men attempted to rob him at gunpoint. Sometime during the robbery attempt, the man retrieved his handgun and exchanged gunfire with the robbery suspects. After the exchange of gunfire, all three suspects fled on foot. Officers found 25-year-old Duayne Deandre-Devon Smith of Port Arthur dead from an apparent gunshot wound near the scene of the crime.

According to the city, a new gaming ordinance going into effect in Port Arthur on Sept. 1 is meant to deter illegal activity at game rooms and impose stricter rules and penalties on game room owners operating outside the law, going so far as to shut down establishments that don’t comply with certain mandates established by the ordinance.

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