SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KETK) – A Smith County poker room in business for over five years was shut down early Friday morning.

Top Shelf Poker Room in Flint was shut down by the county overnight. According to Sergeant Larry Christian with the Smith County Sheriff’s Office, the county executed a search warrant on the location.

The investigation was launched after “numerous complaints regarding what was believed to be local gambling.”

The investigation was launched in the mid to latter part of 2021, according to Christian. Several investigators, some of whom were working undercover, developed “probable cause to believe illegal gambling was taking place.”

The Top Shelf Poker Room has been open for more than five years, according to their Facebook page. In an online post, the poker room stated that they are “going to have to open up a court case and get a petition together.”

Top Shelf Owner and Operator Jesse Vann said the establishment acts as a social club the same way many others do in the state of Texas.

“It just seems crazy to me, if you have a problem with something, bring it up upfront,” Vann said. “I don’t understand how we’re doing something different when hundreds of other social clubs in Texas are operating the same way.”

Vann said that when he and the current owners bought the place, it had been operating for over five years.

“I’ve been trying to figure out things as I go, like what is it that we did wrong?” Vann said. “Because that would be the most important thing to know. We could work it out together and say: What are we doing wrong? And what do we need to be doing right?”

In a Facebook post, the business said all their chips, shirts, poker players money for the night, business cash, promo money, benefit money for charities and ATM money was confiscated. The sheriff’s office said they seized gambling paraphernalia, money, financial ledgers and other documents and electronics “believed to be associated with the promotion of gambling.”

A notice was posted on the Top Shelf Poker Room door stating that the establishment is in violation of Texas Penal Code Chapter 47 and “should cease operating immediately.” That part of the penal code, according to the notice signed by District Attorney Jacob Putman, “prohibits gambling in a public place and where a person receives any economic benefit other than personal winnings.”

The sheriff’s office said that the owners and operators of Top Shelf were found to be in violation of of Texas Penal Code Chapter 47- gambling, as well as the promotion of gambling, which is a Class A misdemeanor. It is punishable by a sentence of up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000, or up to two years probation or three years with an extension.

Christian said that probable cause was determined to support prosecution for engaging in organized criminal activity, which is a state jail felony punishable by 180 days to two years in a Texas state jail facility and a fine up to $10,000.

“To address the questions regarding why the District Attorney’s Office and Law Enforcement takes the time to investigate simple gambling violations in which there are ‘no victims,'” Christian said. “Smith County is a Law and Order County and as long as gambling of this nature is deemed to be illegal by the Texas Penal Code, these activities will not take root and grow in Smith County, period.”

Vann says he wants everyone to know he and the other owners are not criminals, and they will do what they can to prove that.

“We’re not trying to be criminals and do illegal activities,” Vann said. “We’re providing for three families between the three of us, and we all got kids, and we need to open our doors and start operating again as soon as we can.”

Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said that illegal gambling leads to other things that he will not allow in his county.

“I’m in no position to compromise with the law,” Smith said in a press conference Friday afternoon. “You break the law, I’m the one and my agency, as well as the Department of Public Safety in this instance and the District Attorney’s office, we enforce the law. We don’t make the law, we don’t compromise. Whatever they compromise with the courts, that’s up to them.”

Larry Christian said he recommends Smith County citizens interested in participating in gambling activities in Smith County to consult with an attorney and do it legally or to encourage your State Rep. Matt Schaefer, State Rep. Cole Hefner or Sen. Bryan Hughes to change the current laws.

The investigation is ongoing and the sheriff’s office expects further developments in the near future.

This is a developing story. Check back for more information.