A half-dozen rural counties and municipalities in south Texas have earned millions of dollars from recently enacted fees levied on eight-liner gaming machines, which look and play like slot machines, reports the Austin American-Statesman. Duval County, for example, has collected just under $600,000, or nearly 9 percent of its $7 million yearly budget. It could be the local government success story of the year: Confronted with a struggling economy, a county perhaps best known for its rich history of graft and political corruption uncover a lucrative new source of revenue.
But there’s a small catch. “Of course the machines are illegal, as I understand it,” said Jo Ann Ehmann, the part-time bookkeeper for the tiny city of Gregory. Just northeast of Corpus Christi, Gregory — population 2,000 — has collected about $800,000 in the 18 months since it started enforcing its $1,000-per-machine game room ordinance. The city’s annual budget is about $1 million. Texas’ strict anti-gambling laws forbid them from paying out cash prizes. So most purport to offer winnings such as rolls of paper towels, electronics and stuffed animals.