Category Archives: Slot Machines

Missouri Gaming Association Presses Legislators to Step up on Illegal Slot Machine Regulation

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to shut down the illegal slot machines that have popped up all over Missouri.  There have been numerous obstacles reported, but given the Missouri Gaming Commission can only regulate legal slot machines at the 13 Missouri Casinos, the legislature is in a position to pass meaningful regulation.  So far, all efforts to stop these illegal gambling machines that have swept the state have been limited to the local jurisdictions that have been willing to prosecute.  Many have called for a more uniformed and statewide approach to enforcement, including the Missouri Gaming Association.  They have praised the work of local law enforcement, but continue to press for a more comprehensive state-wide approach.  An online source reports:

The Missouri Gaming Association is calling for legislative action to stop the spread of illegal slot machines throughout the state. The association estimates there are at least 14,000 illegal machines in use statewide, a number approaching the total of 16,500 legal ones in Missouri’s 13 casinos.

Illegal slot machines aren’t exactly hiding, either, Missouri Gaming Association Executive Director Mike Winter said. Often, he said, they’re in plain sight.  “You don’t have to travel very far in the state or on a highway and stop in someplace and see one, two or more of these machines,” Winter said. 

The machines are common in gas stations, truck stops and convenience stores, but Winter said those business aren’t necessarily to blame and might not know the machines are illegal.

The association released a statement thanking the patrol for its efforts and faulting lawmakers: “The Missouri Gaming Association supports the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s investigations and recent mass seizures of illegal slot machines at Missouri gas stations, truck stops and restaurants. Because last session’s legislative efforts to address illegal slot machines in Missouri failed, the Missouri State Highway Patrol is now left to deal with the issue on their own.”

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


‘No Casino’ Group’s New Ad Campaign Reminds Politicians and the Florida Public who gets the Final vote in Sports Betting – Pointing out one of the biggest issues with the new Seminole Compact

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to solidify a new Seminole Compact.  The agreement addressed many exclusivity deals that help regulate and prevent gambling expansion in Florida.  However, many have seen this as an opportunity to include sports betting, which while giving exclusive rights to the Seminole Casinos, would also be a new form of gambling and one that the Florida constitution expressly requires a vote of the people to become law.  The state is trying to circumvent the constitution, but No Casino group has released an ad campaign to remind them of the law.  Florida Politics reports:

No Casinos is launching a new statewide ad campaign to warn Floridians about the new Seminole Compact, which opens sports betting the group says illegally expands gambling in violation of the Florida Constitution.

The Orlando-based anti-gambling group argues the deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis late last month and could be finalized during a Special Legislative Session starting May 17, lets “politicians and gambling lobbyists, instead of voters, authorize a massive expansion of gambling” in the Sunshine State. “Not politicians. Not lobbyists. You,” the ad leads off. “That’s the law. But gambling lobbyists want politicians to break it.”

No Casinos specifically cite the Amendment 3 constitutional mandate passed in 2018 by 72% of Florida voters. The amendment gives Floridians “the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida.”

The sports betting provision isn’t limited to the casinos either, but instead allows for mobile gambling all over the state.  This is the very type of gambling expansion that No Casinos contends the Florida constitution is designed to prevent without the express approval of voters.  Florida Politics explains:

Despite that explicit provision, the group says an expansion of sports betting could turn every cellphone into a “slot machine.”

“Their plan: Casinos. Sports betting. Even slot machines on cell phones,” the ad continues. “It’ll be like ‘internet cafes’ all over again.” The only thing missing? Your approval,” the ad concludes with a call to action. “Voter approval of gambling is the law. Tell your legislator: Don’t break it.”

“Voters were crystal clear that they wanted the final say on gambling expansion in Florida, and we’re letting them know that this proposed compact is a blatant violation of the constitution and the will of the people,” No Casinos President John Sowinski said in a statement. The ad — titled “People, Not Politicians” — will run both online and on cable TV in key markets statewide.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


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.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


GUEST ARTICLE: As States Like Missouri Deals with a Surge of Illegal Gaming Machines, the American Gaming Association Outlines the Numerous Problems they Create

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing developments of illegal slot machines that have popped up all over Missouri.  These illegal gambling machines, however, have found their way into many states and pose tremendous harm.  So much so that the American Gaming Association has issued a Nationwide statement condemning them.  Below is a portion of their press release  and the full white paper can be accessed HERE:

On Monday, the American Gaming Association (AGA) released a white paper highlighting the dangers of unregulated, illegal gambling machines proliferating across the U.S. These illegal gambling machines are not subjected to meaningful testing, licensing or regulatory standards and are often tied to criminal activity, including money laundering, drug trafficking and violent crime.

Highlights of the white paper, Skilled at Deception: How Unregulated Gaming Machines Endanger Consumers and Dilute Investments in Local Economies, include:

  • Illegal gambling machines do not undergo the same stringent regulatory requirements the legal gaming industry meets, including a licensing process, game testing and reporting and responsible gaming – nor are they monitored to ensure fair play for customers. Unregulated machine operators also lack training in responsible gaming, potentially luring children and those with problem gambling behaviors to use these machines.
  • Recent raids of illegal gaming machines have been tied to drug trafficking, gang activity, violence and have also been linked to several major organized crime families.

To combat the spread of illegal machines, the report recommends:

  • Law enforcement and policymakers need to prioritize robust enforcement of laws to root out illegal and unregulated gaming machines.
  • States and communities must not authorize these machines and continue to erode regulations and permit unnecessary consumer risk.
  • Businesses should actively remove illegal and unregulated games on their properties.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Major Manufacturer of Missouri’s Illegal Gambling Machines Attempts a Lawsuit to Avoid Shutdown and Prosecution

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the ongoing saga of illegal gambling machines that are operating outside of regulated casinos and in gas stations and convenience stores all over the state.  They have always been illegal as they operate outside of casinos, and despite the collective Missouri leadership taking much longer than needed to declare them illegal, both the court and local prosecutors have established they are not allowed. Legislation has been introduced to make the penalties steep enough to prevent such action as well, but a recent lawsuit by one of the leading manufacturers of these illegal gambling machines, has proven they still plan to fight. The St Louis Post Dispatch reports:

A politically connected company that has flooded Missouri with unregulated slot machines is suing the state, saying it’s devices do not qualify as illegal gambling.

Torch Electronics, a Wildwood firm, and Warrenton Oil, which offers Torch games at its gas stations, are asking a Cole County judge to issue an order stopping the Missouri Highway Patrol from seizing machines as part of a crackdown on illegal gambling. The suit was filed Feb. 5, three days after the Highway Patrol seized three machines from a St. Clair location owned by Warrenton Oil.

The company’s action was met with skepticism in the Missouri Senate, which is debating legislation designed to shut down the proliferation of unregulated slot machines in the state. Senate President Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, called the lawsuit “ironic” coming from a company that is pushing a product considered to be illegal by many, including a Platte County judge. 

“They are flat illegal,” Schatz said. During brief comments on the Senate floor Wednesday, Schatz scoffed at the lawsuit, saying the machines are siphoning money from education programs and veterans because players are not going to the state’s casinos, where profits are taxed and distributed to schools.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Missouri Senate Pro Tem Files Illegal Missouri Gambling Machine Bill with Severe Punishments for Violators

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the every baffling situation involving illegal gambling machines all over Missouri.  The State’s gambling law is very clear that slot machines are only allowed inside legally licensed and regulated casinos, yet these gambling machines have popped up all over the state.  Casino Watch Focus presented a Guest Article clearly outlining the lack of proper enforcement on the issue, even after a clear court ruling confirmed such machines are illegal.  Given the enforcement has been so slow, Missouri Senate Pro Tem David Schatz has introduced legislation that would clearly outline enforcement and more significantly, severe punishment, for those who continue to run these illegal slot machines.  The Missouri Times Reports:

“I filed SB 10 because of the proliferation of illegal gambling machines throughout the state,” Schatz said before the Government Accountability & Fiscal Oversight Committee Thursday morning. “There are dozens — if not hundreds — of establishments across the state of Missouri that house these unauthorized gaming machines. There is no grey area with this; the gaming laws are black and white, and this is impacting revenues that should be going to our schools. There’s no need for us to not move this legislation forward.”

Under Missouri law, gambling machines are only allowed in casinos. Schatz’s bill would allow the Gaming Commission to partner with the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Supervisor of Liquor Control to investigate illegal gambling machines in rest stops, fraternal organizations, and other locations across the state. The bill would also add permanent revocation of a lottery gaming license to the list of sanctions for offenses and assert that devices using random number generators and awarding monetary prizes fall under the definition of illegal machines.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Guest Article: Editorial: Why won’t state and local officials enforce Missouri gaming laws?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing issue of shutting down illegal slot machines that popped up all over in Missouri gas stations and similar business.  Those machines were finally the subject of a proper lawsuit  giving way to full enforcement of Missouri’s regulations to only allow slot machines in regulated casinos.  However, that enforcement has been almost non-existent.  Nearly two months ago it was reported that enforcement wasn’t happening as expected  and it doesn’t seem to have picked up too much.  The following article is from the Editorial Board at the St Louis Post Dispatch and can be read in its entirety HERE, with a few highlights below: 

It is illegal in Missouri to host gambling machines except in licensed casinos. The law is clear on that, and just for good measure, a judge in September confirmed it. So why are state officials and local prosecutors still failing to confront the bars and gas stations that are hosting thousands of these unlicensed video gambling machines?

Some argue that gambling should be legalized across the state altogether, if only because it’s already everywhere anyway. But legalization must come with oversight and taxation, which still isn’t being applied to these rogue games. That must change, especially at a time when the state should be scrounging for every bit of revenue it can find.

At issue are some 14,000 video machines in business venues all over the state that players pay to play on the chance of making more money back. If that sounds like exactly what goes on in a casino, well, it is. Yet the machines aren’t licensed, taxed or regulated by the state, in blatant violation of Missouri’s gaming statutes…

There is no reasonable justification for it. They’re just doing it, and getting away with it, in large part because the industry lobbies heavily and contributes to politicians’ campaigns, including Gov. Mike Parson’s.

The fact is, the judge’s ruling wasn’t even necessary for state officials and local prosecutors to move on this. The purveyors of these machines are breaking the law. Until the law changes, they and the business venues that host them should be raided, prosecuted and fined. Period. They have gambled on Missouri’s patience long enough.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


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.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Unregulated Slot Machine Manufacture Found Guilty of Illegal Gambling in Western Missouri

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing struggles to properly regulate illegal slot machines outside of casinos in Missouri.  These slot machines, often referred to as pre-reveal machines, have been popping up all over the state claiming to be legal games and not slot machines.  The regulatory problems have mostly stemmed from disorganization regarding who needed to be regulating these machines.  Local prosecutors had to take the lead and bring charges in their individual jurisdictions while the Missouri Legislature debated how to handle the situation.  The results of the first prosecution attempt are in and as expected, the machines were deemed illegal. The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports:

A Platte County Circuit Court judge on Tuesday found a Kansas-based company guilty of promoting illegal gambling in the first degree, a class E felony that carries a fine of up to $10,000.

The ruling against Shawnee, Kansas-based Integrity Vending LLC likely will have wide-ranging consequences: gaming companies have long argued that their machines are legal under Missouri law; the Missouri Highway Patrol and some county prosecutors have disagreed, saying the machines are illegal gambling devices. Observers had long awaited Judge Thomas Fincham’s ruling for clarity on what kind of games Missouri law actually allows.

The unregulated machines — state officials estimated last year there were about 14,000 of them in gas stations, bars and clubs across the state — have come under fire because of the stealth nature by which they were deployed.

Unlike regulated gaming, no proceeds are diverted to education. There are also no government-sanctioned resources for addicted gamblers or rules to protect consumers from low payouts.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION

 


Missouri’s Illegal Gambling Machines are Finally being Shut Down, but only Temporarily

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to remove illegal gambling machines scattered all over Missouri in places like gas stations and convenience stores. Slot Machines are only legal in the 13 licensed Missouri Casinos, but when these started popping up, it was unclear how to deal with the problem.  Most recently, the Missouri legislature put forth various solutions, but most were at odds with one another.  These machines have stayed in operation despite all kinds of attempts, but the covid-19 situation has finally created an opportunity to close them down, at least temporarily.  The St. Louis Post Dispatch explains:

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services on Friday banned the operation of the slot machines that at least one politically connected company has installed at scores of gas stations and truck stops in the past year.

The prohibition, which also includes other coin-operated games ranging from pool tables to pinball, is designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, said DHSS Director Randall Williams.

“Due to the potential unnecessary exposure associated with individuals playing coin-operated amusement devices … and slot machines, all persons should avoid using such devices or machines and the owner of such devices or machines shall be prohibited from operating them for public use through the duration of this order,” Williams wrote.

This order runs as long as the Governor keeps the state on stay at home orders, but once that lifts, these illegal gambling machines will return, and so will all the problems associated with them.  

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


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.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


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.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


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.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


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.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Missouri Legislators to introduce Sports Betting Bills, this time with a cut for Professional Leagues

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing growth of sports betting after the Supreme Court’s ruling to allow states to legalize sports gambling.  Many states have done just that, with Florida being the most recently reported state to consider its legalization. Nothing has passed in Florida and Missouri attempted last year to introduce legislation, but it lacked any fees to pro sports organizations.  Now it would appear that with the pre filing of two new sports legalization bills, Missouri is going to reattempt legalization, but this time with the addition of integrity fees.  An online source reports:

Lawmakers in Missouri have pre-filed legislation to legalize and regulate sports betting, following the issue of a favorable special committee report. The new proposals are similar to bills introduced earlier this year, which failed to pass before the end of the 2019 legislative session.

However, sponsors of new bills have called for the inclusion of integrity fees to be paid to professional sports leagues, and as much as 0.75% of handle.

Here’s what’s included in the bills: SB 567 from Sen. Denny Hoskins calls for the Missouri Lottery Commission to oversee sports betting with 0.25% of handle paid to the leagues. SB 754 from Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer seeks 0.75% of handle to be paid to the leagues. The bill would put the Missouri Gaming Commission in charge of regulation.

The decision to include an integrity fee might not actually help the legislation get passed this year considering the issue has been vehemently opposed in other states.  The online source continues:

The issue of integrity fees is a thorny one and is bitterly opposed by operators, who argue that they would eat into their slim profits from sports wagering. Operators usually only keep around 5% of the total handle and, should this be compromised, the additional costs would then have to be passed onto players in the form of un-competitive lines and less enticing promotions.

Integrity fees have been advocated most notably by the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Baseball (MLB), as a way of profiting from the proliferation of sports betting in the U.S. However, none of the states to launch legal sports betting so far have approved such a fee, with New Jersey  going so far as calling the idea “insulting”.

Whether or not such gambling efforts violate the Missouri constitution that limits gambling to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers remains to be seen.  However, the possible inclusion of mobile operators would sure seem to make that question more discernible, which could make the passage harder than typical legislation.  The new legislation is vague, but does seem to want to set up such a system. The source concludes: 

The committee report, which was presented to the state House on Dec. 5, does at least include a potential sweetener for the operators:statewide online/mobile wagering. While vague on the subject, the report stated it is interested in mobile wagering and “creating a level playing field insofar as that is possible”“.Whether that means the market will be opened up to several mobile operators or ensuring retail sportsbooks aren’t dominated by single operators is unclear.”

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION