Unregulated Slot Machine Enforcement in Missouri is Off to a Slow Start

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the illegal gambling machines that exploded all over Missouri.  These devices are essentially just slot machines that pre-reveal the result, meaning you aren’t really gambling on the very first pull, as its result showing, but on the next pull.  Clearly, they de facto function exactly like a slot machine and thus, they are illegal outside of a properly licensed and regulated Missouri Casino.  It’s been a problem in Missouri for a while, but some real direction finally came with a recent court decision that definitely found one of the slot machine manufacturers guilty of illegal gambling.  Since then however, the enforcement of crackdown on other facilities across the state hasn’t picked up.  The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports:

In the wake of a recent ruling that a Kansas-based company’s unregulated slot machine-style games were illegal, Missouri officials are now divided on how to move forward with policing roughly 14,000 similar devices deployed at gas stations and bars across the state.

The Post-Dispatch obtained a draft letter from state liquor regulators to licensees informing them of the Sept. 22 ruling by a Platte County Circuit Court judge, but emphasizing the judgment was “not final at this time” while the company, Shawnee Kansas-based Integrity Vending LLC, appealed.

Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, said the letter was “probably not strong enough.” He said he wanted the state to give businesses time to unplug the games before facing suspension or revocation of their liquor licenses, but said he understood officials’ caution, given that appeals are possible.

There has been an initial reluctance to move forward with prosecution or the pulling of liquor licenses as of now.  Moreover, internal money and resources set aside for such activities haven’t been disseminated as initially allocated. The St Louis Post Dispatch explains:

Because the games are unregulated, there are no consumer protections to prevent low payouts, no money directed to public education and no resources available for addicted gamblers.

Schatz’s desire for the state Department of Public Safety to start pulling liquor licenses from noncompliant gas stations and bars would mark an escalation in the state’s efforts to police the games. This year, the Missouri Highway Patrol, operating under the Department of Public Safety, had as of Oct. 6 forwarded 72 probable cause affidavits to local prosecutors for illegal gambling charges, an agency spokesman said in an email. But most prosecutors, at least before the Platte County ruling, had been reluctant to file charges. 

Senate Budget Chairman Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, included $150,000 in this year’s budget for investigations of the devices. The money was earmarked for the attorney general’s office, which enforces consumer protection laws. Gov. Mike Parson withheld the money this summer amid lagging revenue projections, temporarily stopping any action. With a more favorable budget forecast, his administration released the funds this month, but Attorney General Eric Schmitt is still reluctant to spend the money.

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