Hidalgo Co. Working to Dispose Gambling Machines Containing Mercury

4 years 3 weeks 3 days ago Tuesday, March 21 2017 Mar 21, 2017 March 21, 2017 9:17 PM March 21, 2017 in News

WESLACO - Hidalgo County is in the process of disposing hundreds of gambling machines that contain mercury. 

Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez said his office inherited approximately 600 gambling machines. Many were seized by the county during former administrations. 

Rodriguez said although the cost of getting rid of the machines is an issue, they might have found a solution. 

"Most of those machines are difficult to deal with because they have mercury, and it's hard to get rid of the complete machine. Some companies will come, dismantle them but leave the mercury," he said. 

Rodriguez said being left with the substance is a health hazard. 

Dr. Livania Zavala-Spinetti explained mercury can be dangerous if inhaled, especially by pregnant women. 

"Mercury in room temperature is a vapor, and we inhale that and it starts to go to our brain and our lungs, and starts to cause several side effects," she said. "The baby can receive that in the brain and that can cause permanent damage in the brain."

Rodriguez said another problem with selling the equipment is making sure they don't wind up in the hands of those who run illegal gambling facilities in the Valley. He said his office might have found a solution to the problem recently. 

"We turn them over to the Texas Facility Commission, and they auction these machines off. But they have a criteria of who they can sell to," he said. "That's the best business we found out there to help us get rid of those machines, and the money that's brought back to the county."

Rodriguez said his office can send those machines to the commission only after receiving permission from the commissioner's court. 

The district attorney added the machines are only auctioned off to licensed gambling organizations out of the state of Texas. 

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