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Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse told the Athens Kiwanis Club on Tuesday that although several gaming rooms were shut down recently, some are re-emerging.

"We did make gaming rooms a priority here," Hillhouse said. "We were actually able to shut them down for a while but unfortunately they're coming back, so we're going to have to focus more resourses on them."

The game rooms are dangerous places where you'll find drug activity, Hillhouse said.

"You've got a lot of elderly people in them and a lot of times they'll get robbed," Hillhouse said.

The gaming machines are much like slot machines seen in casinos in Louisiana. The machines themselves are not illegal, but paying big prizes or large sums of money to winners is. The biggest one shut down in the county recently was on State Highway 155 in Coffee City, on the eastern edge of the county.

"With that organization, we seized over $1 million," Hillhouse said. "They were making probably $20,000 to $40,000 a week for the owners so they're willing to take a misdemeanor slap on the wrist to make that kind of money."

Hillhouse said the HCSO now investigates the gaming rooms as organized criminal activity. It takes longer to investigate, but carries a stiffer sentence.

"If we can make that case, it's a felony case," Hillhouse said. "When we started doing that, they all closed their doors."

The game rooms were gone for about a year before they started cropping up again.

Hillhouse said his department has had success fighting drugs in the county, which remains an ongoing process. He credits his deputies with working hard in the effort to rid the county of the illegal substances and their dealers.

Another subject Hillhouse covered at the Kiwanis meeting is a recent agreement that will help the county get evidence tested quicker at the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab.

Henderson County is teaming up with Kaufman County to get a quicker turnaround on drug tests. Commissioners Court recently approved an interlocal agreement allowing the counties to share the cost of having the tests conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety. The contract dedicates a DPS chemist to prioritize Henderson or Kaufman County cases. Henderson County pays $45,000 for its half of the cost.

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