By Sarah Naron

Messenger Reporter

PALESTINE – In a continued effort to rid the city of Palestine of illegal gaming, officers with the Palestine Police Department – assisted by members of the Palestine PD SWAT Team – conducted a raid of the Win City gaming room, located at 1304 Texas 155 North at approximately 6 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21.

“Seized in the raid were 59 gaming machines used in the operation and more than $5,000 in cash,” said Nate Smith, Communications and Best Practices Officer for the City of Palestine. “The owner of the gaming room was not present at the time of the raid.”

As Smith explained, an investigation in which undercover law enforcement officials visited the gaming room in order to collect the evidence necessary to conduct the raid. The Palestine PD received assistance from several other law enforcement entities.

Win City is the fourth gaming room to be raided as part of Operation Game Over, an investigation by the Palestine PD which began in December 2017 and resulted in raids of three facilities – Blow Vapor Zone (301 W. Palestine Ave.), Dee’s Business Center (300 W. Palestine Ave.) and J&R Lounge (515 McNeil St.) – on the morning of Friday, Jan. 12.

“It’s about the gambling, but it’s much bigger than that for us,” said Palestine Police Chief Andy Harvey during a press conference held the same day. “What happens is, there’s a lot of secondary crime that happens because of illegal gambling. That’s really our main concern.”

Chief Harvey has past experiences with murders and robberies occurring in illegal gaming rooms and also cited the possibility of wider spread crime as motivation for the investigation.

“People that go gamble need money,” he pointed out. “They don’t have money, they go and steal (other people’s property) and sell it, and that’s how that circle works.”

Smith also reported that two residents of Palestine were arrested on unrelated drug charges in the midst of Wednesday’s raid. The Selective Enforcement Unit took Viri Fernandez, 21, and Juan Manuel Vega, 34, into custody on the charge of possession of a controlled substance. Fernandez also faced one count of possession of marijuana.

For Anderson County District Attorney Allyson Mitchell, the obliteration of another illegal gaming facility is something to be proud of.

“It’s great to see the Palestine Police Department continue their pledge to combat illegal gambling or gaming in our community,” she said.

Sarah Naron may be reached via email at snaron@messenger-news.com.