Category Archives: Illegal Gambling

Despite Missouri Casinos Closing to Adhere to Coronavirus Guidelines, Illegal Gambling Machines are still Operating Statewide Creating unsafe environments

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to shut down illegal gambling machines that have popped up all over the state.  One of the biggest problems is the fact that they are completely unregulated. Up to this point, the impact has been loss of revenue for Missouri school systems and absolutely no checks and balances to safeguard those who play the machines from being cheated out of their money.  However, these rogue machines are now creating a new issue that stems from being unregulated – they are still operating and tempting the public to gather at a time when the rest of the casinos are shut down due to the covid-19 pandemic. The St Louis Post Dispatch reports:

Post-Dispatch visits to Columbia-area gas stations, where slot machine-style games have operated for months, showed many games were still plugged in on Tuesday, despite casinos receiving the order a week ago to shut down until March 30.

The inconsistency highlights the unregulated nature of roughly 14,000 gaming devices in Missouri, located in gas stations, clubs and bars.

Mike Leara, chairman of the Missouri Gaming Commission, which regulates licensed casinos, said the commission wanted to prevent large crowds from gathering at casinos during the outbreak — something that wouldn’t necessarily happen at a gas station.

A study released March 17 by the National Institutes of Health said the new coronavirus was detectable for “up to two to three days” on plastic and stainless steel surfaces.

Wildwood-based Torch Electronics is one of the biggest players in unregulated slot machine-style devices in Missouri. Torch faces felony illegal gambling charges by the Linn County prosecutor. A hearing in that case is scheduled for April 23.

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New Missouri Gambling Bill Seeks to Legalize Illegal & Unregulated Slot Machines

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the illegal gambling machines that have emerged all over Missouri.  The Missouri constitution limits gambling to river boat casinos along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers only.  Any other gambling outside of the lottery is illegal. So naturally many were confused when illegal slot machines started showing up at truck stops and other locations outside of regulated casinos.  Initially there was confusion over who had the authority to shut them down as the Missouri Gaming Commission can only regulate gambling at the casinos. However, after some time, a lot has been done to curb the illegal devices including criminal and civil lawsuits.  Missouri representatives have been looking at legislation to explicitly ban them all together and there has been some disagreement on how to handle the situation in general. However, its still rather shocking to see legislation proposed that would attempt to violate the Missouri Constitution and make such gambling devices legal.  An online source reports:

The new bill, dubbed Senate Bill 566, aims to combat the illegal gambling machine problem. It seeks to allow state-regulated video gambling machines in truck stops, fraternal and veterans’ organizations and retail locations that hold liquor licenses. It suggests that people over the age of 21 should be allowed to access these regulated machines, which will be monitored by the State Lottery Commission.

Some lawmakers are uncomfortable with the idea of these machines. For instance, Senator John Rizzo said that he doesn’t want kids to walk into gas stations, buying Gatorades and passing through these gambling machines.

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Illegal Slot Machine Manufacture Faces Criminal Charges In Missouri

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of illegal gambling machines that have popped up all over Missouri.  Gambling is restricted to the 13 licensed casinos along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers only.  However, new slot machines have surfaced in gas stations and other establishments that have caught the ire of law enforcement.  At first only a few cases again the establishments were filed and very little attention was given to them. Then as more state wide attention emerged, several different attempts were made to eradicate them, including a civil lawsuit by legitimate manufactures against the illegal slot machines manufacturer.  That same manufacturer is now facing criminal charges. The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports:

A county prosecutor has filed illegal gambling charges against Torch Electronics, one of the largest operators of unregulated slot machines in the state. Torch, owned by Wildwood businessman Steve Miltenberger, is one of the companies whose machines have triggered a mixed response from law enforcement. 

The company is also a player in Missouri politics, contributing more than $20,000 to Gov. Mike Parson’s election effort. The filing is the first known instance of a county prosecutor in Missouri bringing charges against the company. According to a probable cause statement, two Brookfield Police Department officers on Sept. 12 removed three “slot machines” from the County Line Convenience store after speaking with store manager Tannis Williams.

Because the machines are unregulated, machine revenues don’t go to public education, there are no rules for acceptable payouts, and there are no state gambling addiction resources funded by machine revenues. Money from Torch and its owner, Steven Miltenberger, flowed to numerous politicians last year, according to Missouri Ethics Commission records.

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Missouri Gov. Opposes Gaming Commission and Missouri Highway Patrol on Illegal Slot Machines Highlighting the need for Legislation

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the illegal gambling machines that have been popping up outside of casinos and all over Missouri.  Slot machines are only allowed in licensed Missouri casinos, yet the manufacture of the machines claim they aren’t games of chance, so they aren’t slot machines.  Many jurisdictions have dealt with pre reveal machines and they have all concluded they are slot machines. The Missouri Gaming Commission has defined them as illegal machines, but they can only enforce gambling regulations at the casinos.  The Missouri Highway Patrol has been clear they view them as gambling and they have been working with local prosecutors to try to crack down on the machines. Most recently, authorized slot machine manufacturers have taken to the courts to sue those that manufacture the illegal machines.  Various editorial boards are also standing up against this illegal expansion of gambling. The St Louis Post Dispatch had the following to say:

Reasons abound why the spread of unlicensed payout video-gaming machines in Missouri’s bars, restaurants and gas stations constitutes an intolerable situation. Legalized gambling was approved here as a tradeoff for state tax revenue, but the unlicensed machines don’t bring in any. The state regulates legal gambling operations to ensure they aren’t cheating their patrons, but there is no such protection for those who play these machines.

Another important reason regulation is necessary is that gambling is an addictive activity for some people, which is why the state requires that access to addiction services and a voluntary self-exclusion program be offered at regulated gambling sites. These unregulated sites have no such resources.

The editorial continues and its sentiment is joined by other editorial boards as well, so its odd that Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons isn’t convinced the machines are clearly illegal slot machines.  US News and World Report explains:

Gov. Mike Parson says he’s not convinced that unregulated and untaxed video gambling terminals in the state are illegal, even as investigators in his administration work to halt their spread. The governor’s stance is in contrast to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, whose leaders have made a decision. A patrol lieutenant told a state House committee in October that the machines are illegal and that its investigations resulted in dozens of criminal referrals to prosecutors.

Besides the Platte County case, several others have been filed, including one in Parson’s home county. Polk County Prosecutor Ken Ashlock said there are no payout requirements for unregulated machines, meaning the operators can keep more money than they could in one of the state’s 13 regulated casinos. “People are just getting cheated on them and they don’t know it,” he said.

The Governor’s position doesn’t instill confidence and some have argued its a symptom of a larger problem and is the real reason the Missouri legislator must address the issue this legislative session.  The Joplin Globe argues:

The biggest distributor of the machines, Torch Electronics, has aggressively marketed the games. It says the terminals are not gambling devices because a player has the option of checking the outcome of a wager by clicking an icon before continuing play, thereby removing the element of chance, though players are not required to click the icon before completing the play.

Torch employs politically connected lobbyists and high-powered consultants. The company has made campaign donations to key political players, including at least $20,000 to Gov. Mike Parson, according to a July report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The fact that criminal cases are going forward while the governor questions whether the devices are in fact illegal highlights the problem. Torch and similar companies distributing the devices are skirting the edges of the gambling laws in Missouri and appear to be trying to game the system through political influence.

The Missouri House held special hearings into the machines and unregulated gambling this past summer, and the Senate is looking at a plan to ban the terminals outright.

This is an issue of the letter of the law versus the intent of the law. The Missouri General Assembly must resolve the matter, to permit these games or to clearly ban them.

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Puerto Rico to Approve Cockfighting in direct defiance of President Trump’s new Federal Bill

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ever cruel gambling sport known as cockfighting. This illegal gambling activity involves strapping razors to the feet of the chickens who battle, typically to the death, while people gamble on the outcome. New legislation passed by President Trump will provide additional enforcement tools to help crack down.  An online source explains: 

The enactment of federal law will now enhance the fight against animal cruelty. Last week President Donald Trump signed the federal pact preventing animals from cruelty. The law will now help the local enforcement to crackdown cockfighting, which is prevalent in Las Vegas Valley.

Despite having a variety of gaming activities in nearby Las Vegas, cockfighting is prevalent in the region. The sport is popular among Latin American migrants. It is culturally accepted in South America, but banned in the US. According to Casino.org, California and part of Texas are a hotbed of the sport; the sport is operated by rings who host betting activities among the spectators. Razors are fixed on the birds’ feathers, and they usually fight to the death.

The new federal law will enable local law enforcement to have more power in persecuting those involved in the activity. It is a felony for anyone found abusing non-human living things such as birds, mammals, reptiles, or amphibians.

Despite these efforts, Puerto Rico has not acquiesced to the federal direction on such matters.  In fact, Puerto Rico is now passing new legislation to attempt to protect their cockfighting industry, and they are aware of the federal legal battle that will ensue.  The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports:

Puerto Rico will defy the U.S. government and approve a law to keep cockfighting alive in a bid to protect a 400-year-old tradition practiced across the island despite a federal ban that goes into effect this week, officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday night.

The move brought cautious rejoicing in the cockfighting business despite concerns that the U.S. territory is trying to override a federal law that President Donald Trump signed a year ago. “We are certainly challenging a federal law. We know what that implies,” Rep. Gabriel Rodríguez Aguiló, who co-authored the bill, told the AP. He said that Gov. Wanda Vázquez was scheduled to sign the bill Wednesday morning and that he expected the fight to end up in federal court.

Those in opposition not only see cruelty to animals as terrible and preventable, but they also dispute the claims that its an economically viable means of governmental revenue.  The St. Louis Post Dispatch concludes:

Animal rights activists have long pushed to end cockfights in U.S. territories, saying they are cruel and noting they are illegal in all 50 U.S. states. Wayne Pacelle, founder of the Washington- based Animal Wellness Action, said he doesn’t believe the statistics on Puerto Rico cockfighting.

“They are widely exaggerating the economic value,” he said. “Watching animals slash each other just for human entertainment and gambling is not judged as a legitimate enterprise by mainstream people.”

The measure says it is legal for Puerto Rico to host cockfights as long as people don’t export or import cocks or any goods or services related to cockfighting. The latter actions would violate the federal law, based on how Puerto Rico officials interpret it. “It remains to be seen whether that’s how federal authorities understand it,” said Rep. Luis Vega Ramos.

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Illegal Missouri Gambling Machine Manufacturer sued by Authorized Provider

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing impact of the illegal slot machines that have emerged all over the state.  Missouri limits gambling and slot machines to the 13 licensed casinos that are only authorized to operate on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.  These illegal gambling machines have finally reached the forefront of regulators as both prosecutors and legislators have been working to find ways of cleaning up the problem.  Now, a new approach has emerged in the form of a civil lawsuit. US News and World Report explains: 

The owner of a Missouri coin-operated game company wants a judge to shut down another company’s video gambling terminals, alleging they are illegal and hurting profits.

TNT Amusements filed the civil lawsuit last week in Crawford County against Torch Electronics, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The suit also names Midwest Petroleum Company, which replaced TNT machines with Torch machines at its Midwest Travel Plaza truck stop along Interstate 44 in the Missouri town of Cuba.

The devices, which work in a similar fashion to slot machines, have been rolled out across the state by Torch and other companies. The TNT lawsuit argues that slot machines are only allowed in casinos.  By placing them in truck stops, gas stations and convenience stores, it is breaking state law. Turntine’s attorney, Elkin Kistner of Clayton, called Torch a “rogue operator.”

At least two pieces of legislation have been filed in recent days aimed at stopping Torch and other companies. Both could be debated when the Legislature convenes in January.

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Missouri to Propose Illegal Slot Machine Legislation

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing evolution of the illegal slot machine dilemma Missouri has been facing. For years, illegal slot machines have been popping up all over the state, but little has been done to properly regulate them. The issue stems from the gaming commissions ability to only enforce legal gambling, leaving illegal gambling devices to be enforced by each locality. Only recently have area public prosecutors been attempting to shut down these sights, and many have entered the discussion this year. Now, after months of discussions, its being reported that Missouri Pro Tem David Schatz will be filing much needed legislation in hopes of finally providing a solution to an issue that has been plaguing the state for years now. An online source reports:

The Missouri Senate leader will file legislation in December in Jefferson City to increase penalties for alleged illegal slot machines, setting the slot machine issue up as a major one for the 2020 legislative session.

Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, told Missourinet on Wednesday that his legislation will enhance the penalties for the alleged illegal slot machines, which are also known as video lottery terminals (VLTs). They can be found in bars, restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores.

Missouri’s first criminal case involving the alleged illegal slots will go to trial in December in western Missouri’s Platte County.

Pro Tem Schatz says the Missouri Gaming Commission has received multiple reports of sites that have these machines. The Missouri State Highway Patrol testified in October that the number of complaints it’s received about illegal gambling has increased from 39 in 2018 to at least 145 this year. Most of those complaints are about alleged illegal slots.

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