Missouri’s Illegal Slot Machine Problem gets Another Round of Missouri Legislator’s Attention Amid Record Complaints as some Fear it will become a Supreme Court Issue

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing issue plaguing Missouri residents, illegal gambling machines. These slot machines have been popping up all over Missouri and they are illegal. Enforcement has been an issue as the Missouri Gaming Commission can only regulate and enforce legal gambling. Local prosecutors have been responsible for enforcement and the issue has quickly gotten out of control.   Complaints for these machines have more than quadrupled in just the last year and its causing a strain to law enforcement. Missourinet explains:

The Missouri State Highway Patrol testified Thursday in Jefferson City that the number of complaints it’s received about illegal gambling has increased from 39 in 2018 to 145 so far this year. Most of those complaints are about alleged illegal slot machines. Highway Patrol Lieutenant Roger Phillips tells state lawmakers the Patrol’s Division of Drug and Crime Control (DDCC) only has two full-time investigators to handle these complaints. “In recent months, we’ve had such a volume of complaints that we’ve had to pull investigators from other assigned duties to come and help investigate these complaints,” Phillips testifies.

The Missouri House Committee has taken to a more formal round of discussion at the State’s Capitol, inviting testimony from the community, law enforcement and the manufactures of the machines. Interestingly enough, none of the machines manufactures actually showed up as they initially indicated. The St Louis Post Dispatch reports: 

After saying he would welcome the chance to talk to lawmakers, one of the men responsible for the spread of illegal gambling machines across Missouri was a no-show Thursday at a special House committee hearing. In September, a spokesman for Steven Miltenberger, owner of Wildwood-based Torch Electronics, said “we’d look forward to the opportunity” to make the case to lawmakers that

“I have not seen, nor am I aware, of any machines that would be legal,” said Steve Sokoloff, general counsel for the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, which represents county-level prosecutors.

He said the distributors and manufacturers of the machines find loopholes in state anti-gambling laws to help them avoid prosecution. But, no matter which feature is added by the companies, the general sense is that if people put money in a terminal with the belief that they might win money, that is gambling, which is illegal if it is not regulated by the state, Sokoloff said.

Given the shear volume of these machines and the massive amount of money that will be lost should they be properly regulated and formally declared illegal through legislation, some believe the issue will find itself in the Supreme Court. Missourinet explains:

House Special Interim Committee on Gaming Chairman Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, tells Missourinet he believes this issue will end up at the Missouri Supreme Court, because of powerful interests on both sides. “There’s going to be people that make a lot of money one way or the other, and it’s a lot of protection and the cost of going to the (Missouri) Supreme Court would be certainly less than what they would perceive would be won or lost through this process,” Shaul says. He also believes the issue will be litigated in court for three or four years.

Chairman Shaul compares the growing problem of alleged illegal slots to a different issue the Missouri Department of Conservation has dealt with. “Feral hogs weren’t a problem (in Missouri) ten years ago, we just had a little problem. Well, is this going to become the next feral hog issue in the state,” says Shaul.

The Missouri Gaming Commission has testified that any illegal gaming machines used in Missouri negatively impact casinos and the state Lottery, reducing taxes and funding for education and veterans.

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