Mérida, Yucatán — Wielding long guns, the agents from the federal Attorney General’s Office arrived in unmarked vans and seized an unknown number of illegal slot machines in the downtown market area.
The federales pulled in around 11 a.m., alarming pedestrians and tying up traffic when one lane was closed on Calle 56 from 69 to 65.
No arrests were mentioned in a report by Diario de Yucatán.
Slot machines are legal and regulated in slick, licensed casinos outside the Centro, with names like Golden Island and Casino Life. But that doesn’t do much to keep mom-and-pop merchants from competing in tiny storefronts where shoppers congregate.
Federal police routinely pounce without warning, shutting down rogue “minicasinos” near San Benito and Lucas de Galvez markets.
But sporadic seizures have done little to stop illegal slots in Mérida.
The raids lack effectiveness because a whistle-blower — an insider who is accepting a payoff — gives a heads up to owners, who leave old, damaged machines to be seized, reports El Sur.
According to merchants linked to that industry, 9,000 to 10,000 clandestine slots in the market area get constant use, and are considered a gold mine for their owners.
Another newspaper counted 50 such operations while walking the streets.
Up to 100,000 people pass through the neighborhood daily, many looking for a diversion and the hope of making their money grow. A 2014-2015 state Survey of Addictions Yucatan found 30,000 gambling addicts, equivalent to 1.8 percent of the population between 12 to 65.
Robberies and assaults down
Municipal police have reduced robberies and assaults by almost 100 percent since installing a mini police station in San Benito market, said city councilman Mauricio Díaz Montalvo.
After tenants complained of increased crime in the market, the city council approved a police outpost in one of the vacant market stalls in the upper floor.
Diaz Montalvo said that the police work complements work completed by private security officers who also monitor the site.
He added that access ways that were previously open at the site all night are now closed after dark.
Since moving in, police have made four arrests at San Benito.
With information from Diario de Yucatán, El Sur, Sipse, La Vieja Guardia