Focus Report, Volume 76, Number 4, February 1999 Page: 1
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D6 i. 10 40850
Texas House of Representatives
U.S. GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT
DEPOSITORY LIBRARY NO. 610
February 2, 1999
A Fuzzy Issue:
Are Eight-Liners Amusement or Gambling?
Debate continues over the legality of tens of thousands
of electronic gaming machines found across Texas. The
machines, often called "eight-liners," appear in venues
ranging from shopping malls to convenience stores, truck
stops, and, increasingly, establishments billed as "casinos"
set up solely to play the machines.
In a January 1998 opinion, then-Attorney General Dan
Morales ruled that the "fuzzy animal" law legalizing certain
machines for amusement purposes is unconstitutional. Since
then, some law-enforcement authorities and state agencies
have stepped up efforts to stop the proliferation of what they
call illegal gambling machines. Machine owners and
operators have met these efforts with court challenges that in
many cases have left the machines operating while the legal
battles are fought. Other law-enforcement agencies have
adopted a wait-and-see attitude, delaying enforcement
efforts to allow the Legislature or the courts to define an
The machines now number some 30,000, according to
Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) estimates. Much
of the growth in the number of machines occurred after a bill
that would have tightened Penal Code definitions of
permissible and illegal gambling devices died in the 1997
Legislature. Critics of the machines say they are illegal
gambling devices that proliferated under cover of 1993 and
1995 laws that were intended only to legalize amusement
machines with no significant payoff. Machine owners,
operators, and players counter that the machines are
legitimate amusement games, authorized by law, that
provide entertainment for players and revenue for Texans
who operate the machines.
In the face of this legal impasse, the 1999 Legislature is
* likely to consider legislation dealing with gambling and
amusement machines. Proposals range from eliminating
language that authorizes amusement machines to clarifying
the definitions of legal and illegal machines to increasing
penalties for gambling crimes.
The Governor's Task Force on Illegal Gambling, a
group of legislators, law-enforcement officials,
prosecutors, state agency representatives, and the general
public, held four meetings last year to take testimony from
police investigators, prosecutors, and state agency officials
as well as machine owners and operators. In January 1999,
the task force issued recommendations that include
amending the Penal Code so that it unambiguously
prohibits all slot machines, including eight-liners.
The Legal Debate
The current debate most often centers on eight-liners,
which have eight lines on which a player can win (three
across, three down, and two diagonal) by matching
symbols. The legality of eight-liners and similar machines
hinges on two questions: (1) Is the statutory exemption
constitutional? (2) If so, how does it apply?
Chapter 47 of the Penal Code explicitly prohibits
gambling-device versions of bingo, keno, blackjack,
lottery, roulette, and video poker. It also defines illegal
gambling devices as electronic, electromechanical, or
Law-Enforcement Efforts 3
Eight-Liners at Work and Play 3
Phone Sweepstakes Questioned 4
Legislative Proposals 5
Operators of Native American
Gambling Centers Turn to Courts
to Test Legality of Games 6
Here’s what’s next.
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Texas. Legislature. House of Representatives. Research Organization. Focus Report, Volume 76, Number 4, February 1999, periodical, February 2, 1999; Austin, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth641665/m1/1/: accessed February 1, 2023), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.