Daily Archives: May 7, 2021

Missouri Legislature Shuts Down Massive Gambling Expansion Bills, but Illegal Gambling Machines remain Status Quo

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many efforts to expand gambling in Missouri and the efforts to shut down and remove all the illegal slot machines that have popped up in the state.  Various bills were introduced in both the Missouri House and Senate that address items from legalizing sports gambling to actually legalizing these slot machines outside of regulated casinos.  One bill, however, was trying to make them expressly illegal, although any slot machine outside of the casino is already illegal, and it’s really more of allowing the proper regulating bodies the ability to enforce.  For those hoping to keep gambling from expanding in Missouri, the state legislature coming to a close with none of those bills passing is positive news.  However, there are those upset that the opportunity to more definitely shut those machines down this year has also come to an end.  The key takeaway is that the current laws clearly make the machines illegal, and individual Missouri jurisdictions are free to continue to prosecute at will.  Additionally, attempts to simply “regulate” those machines, and thus allow them to become legal, have also been hindered.  An online source reports all the expanded gambling that was prevented:

The Missouri Senate has defeated a three-pronged effort to expand gambling in Missouri while suppressing unregulated devices that offer cash prizes to players.

The bill debated Tuesday would have:

• Authorized up to 10,000 video game terminals in bars and truck stops as well as fraternal and veterans’ organizations. No location could have more than five machines.

• Allowed the Missouri Gaming Commission to license the state’s 13 casinos to offer sports wagering.

• Revised laws on illegal gambling to remove any uncertainty about the legality of what are called “gray market” machines.

The vote that defeated the bill may have been the last chance this legislative session to address the proliferation of devices that some prosecutors have attacked as illegal and that others have refused to file charges over.

Illegal slot machines will continue to persist in Missouri until more action is taken.  Even though the law does allow for prosecutions, most locations simply haven’t enforced the law.  Most retailers think the machines are legal and it will likely take future legislation to help end the problem for good.  The source concludes:

Of the 190 probable cause statements – requests for charges based on a particular set of facts – sent to prosecutors by Missouri State Highway Patrol investigators in 2019 and 2020, only 26 cases alleging illegal ngambling, including eight felony charges, were filed.

“Our experts, and the Highway Patrol, would say that it functions as a slot machine,” [Prosecuting Attorney Shiante McMahon]  said. “That meets the burden under the statute that it is an unlawful gambling machine.”

The legislation to remove any ambiguities in state law is a top priority of Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan. The machines arrive with stickers on them declaring they do not violate state gambling laws, and convenience store owners are reaping large profits.

Hoskins’ bill would have given retailers 10 days to remove the machines once they are notified that they are operating illegal gambling devices. Schatz said he thinks that would be enough to persuade most retailers to remove the machines. “I think a lot of these store owners have been sold a bill of goods,” Schatz said.

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