Category Archives: Slot Machines

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.  

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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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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.”

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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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Florida’s Legislative attempt at Legalized Sports Betting Violates State Constitution

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing issue of sports betting in Florida. There have been many looks at sports betting in Florida now that the Supreme Court has allowed it to be legal. Of course, each state would still need to enact legislation to allow for any sports betting in their jurisdiction. Florida never passed any sports betting legislation, and it would appear that unless the government ties something fairly underhanded, Amendment 3 to the Florida constitution would make it illegal to pass without the consent of the Florida Voters. Florida Politics online explains:

At issue is a bill Sen. Jeff Brandes filed Monday that would legalize sports betting in Florida and place regulatory and oversight authority within the Department of Lottery.

John Sowinski chaired Voters in Charge, the committee *behind the $45 million campaign to approve Amendment 3 last year that requires voter approval for casino gambling expansion in Florida. Voters overwhelmingly approved the Amendment with 71 percent voting in favor.

“Amendment three has one main thing. It says that if it’s casino gambling, it requires approval by citizen constitutional amendment,” Sowinski said. “The Legislature is not even allowed to propose it or put it on the ballot.” “It really could not be more crystal clear,” he added.

The issue at hand then, is the whether or not sports betting is part of the definition of casino gambling. John Sowinski says that answer is very easy to determine and one the courts have easy access to when looking to the question. Florida Politics continues:  

“Sorry — the bill is unconstitutional.When it comes to casino gambling — and yes, sports betting falls under that definition— the voters are in charge,” Sowinski wrote, referencing his committee’s name.

The opinion, released this April by *Paul* *Hawkes*, a former member of the First District Court of Appeals, makes an interesting point on voter intent.

“In 2018, a multi-million dollar campaign effort by sports gambling and pari-mutuel interests opposing Amendment 3 provided considerable accurate context about how Amendment 3 would effect sports gambling and player-designated games,” Hawkes wrote. “The intent of the voters was informed by numerous statements that create a record to which courts can turn to for an understanding of what voters understood the amendment to do.”

Simply put, voters understood a “yes” vote for Amendment 3 would affect sports betting, meaning their intent was for sports betting to be included in mandatory voter approval for gambling expansion. 

John Sowinski further argues, that if those like Brandes take the position that sports gambling can happen outside of a casino and thus its not explicitly a casino gambling issue, then the same can be said of slot machines, black jack and other table games that are offered outside of casinos as well. Even Brandes thinks those games would be considered casino gambling, so its hard to find room to say sports gambling should get a pass and somehow be seen as something other than casino gambling as well.

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Slot Machine Expansion Halted by Florida Supreme Court

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to expand gambling in Florida by expanding slot machines in various jurisdictions. Many areas around Florida have looked to pass voter referendums to allow slot machines, and in several places, they passed. The problem? There was no explicit allowance by the government to allow gambling in those jurisdictions. Those communities argued the referendum was enough, but now the Florida Supreme Court has weighted in on the matter. An online source explains:

A Florida Supreme Court decision that could have resulted in a sweeping expansion of slot machines across the state, including in Palm Beach County, has instead restricted them to Broward and Miami-Dade counties, where they are already in place.

The decision means that pari-mutuels in Broward and Miami-Dade counties that already have slots, such as Mardi Gras and Gulfstream in Hallandale Beach and Isle Casino in Pompano Beach, will continue to have them. But at the Palm Beach Kennel Club, which has long sought to get in on the casino action, the blinking lights and whirling sounds of the one-armed bandits will remain out of reach.

The Supreme Court case stemmed from an attempt to open slot machines at a racetrack in Gretna, a small town in Gadsden County, along the border with Georgia at the start of the Panhandle. Like Palm Beach and six other counties, citizens of Gadsden had voted to approve slot machines

The Gretna racetrack owners argued that such a county referendum allowed slots without the approval of state law. But in a 6-0 decision, the Florida Supreme Court ruled otherwise. “There must be ‘statutory or constitutional authorization’ for any countywide referendum approving slot machines at qualifying pari-mutuel facilities,” wrote Justice Charles Canady in his 16-page opinion. “The authorization must be found elsewhere in the law. And it is nowhere to be found.”

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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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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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Jacksonville Florida Mayor to Enforce Internet Café Ban via Local Legislation, but a Lawsuit Seeks an Injunction

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing issue of internet cafés. Gov. Rick Scott banned this form of illegal gambling as these gambling machines essentially created unregulated mini-casinos. Formal legislation was needed as manufactures and venues routinely tried to claim they weren’t slot machines. However, many jurisdictions have been slow to enforce the new ban as some believed the general definition of internet café and the types of games it sought to restrict might ether be too vague or entirely too broad. Now, one area that has been allowing internet cafes has passed its own local legislation and informed these cafes that they must remove the machines or close entirely. First Coast News explains:

Mayor Lenny Curry signed legislation into law Friday that requires all Jacksonville internet cafes to remove all “simulated gambling” devices or close their doors for good. This legislation goes into effect Friday, and the city will begin enforcing the law on Tuesday, Oct. 15.

On Tuesday, the city council approved the ordinance that calls for Internet cafes to immediately remove simulated gambling devices or close their doors, as soon as the mayor signs the bill into law. The bill was introduced by councilwoman LeAnna Cumber during that Tuesday meeting, previously city council had voted to close all arcades with simulated gambling devices next year. 

As is often the case with gambling issues, and lawsuit has been filed to stop the legislation. Lawyers for the internet cafes filed the injunction almost immediately upon signing. Jacksonville online reports:

A lawsuit filed Friday seeks an injunction to stop the city from enforcing rules the City Council approved in May and this week. A lawyer for several internet café owners asked a federal judge Friday to block Jacksonville officials from enforcing new ordinances banning casino-style electronic games the city calls “simulated gambling devices.”

U.S. District Judge Brian Davis didn’t immediately react to the injunction request Mathis made on behalf of ’s injunction request, which he made on behalf of Triad Venture Capitalists LLC, The Grand Arcade LLC and Chapman Enterprises of Atlantic Beach Inc., all companies that run internet cafes affected by the new rules. 

Between 140 and 160 internet cafes are thought to be operating citywide, and city officials have said inspections to enforce the new rules could begin this month.

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Missouri’s Illegal Gambling Machines are Hurting Public Education Funding

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the on going issue of illegal gambling machines cropping up all over Missouri. These machines are essentially unregulated slot machines in areas outside of Missouri’s regulated casinos. Enforcement issues have been cited, as no one seems to be responsible for shutting them down. This has lead to their proliferation and only now are lawmakers starting to notice.

One of the bigger issues being reported is how money is being syphoned away from public educating funding. Gambling money being used to fund public education is already a troubling proposition, as it general boils down to a shell game of transferred money. Essentially the state has a budget for education. Then a tax on gambling is proposed, normally in exchange for expanded gambling, and a specified amount is then transferred to education. The problem is the original budget is almost always reduced or set in anticipation of the gambling money. It’s rarely ever an actual increase in funding for public education. So it/s even more critical that the expected revenues are collected as the state has made itself reliant on such gambling funds. Now that these gambling machines are spreading and pulling people away from legal, regulated and taxed gambling facilities, and state lottery sales, its public education that’s taking a hit. An online source explains: 

The Missouri Lottery’s executive director testified Thursday in Jefferson City that illegal slot machines are hurting public education in the Show-Me State. Illegal slot machines can be found in bars, restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores.

Scheve Reardon testified during a 90-minute hearing before the House Special Interim Committee on Gaming, which is chaired by State Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial. Shaul tells the audience that illegal slot machines cost Missouri education at least $50 million last year. He says the alleged illegal slot machines are hurting the Lottery, thereby impacting classrooms.

“The (Missouri) Lottery is losing revenue here, because of these alleged illegal machines. So are the (Missouri’s 13) casinos, so is everybody across that’s funding the state. The state is losing money because of these,” says Shaul. Thursday’s hearing was the committee’s second in two weeks. The Missouri Gaming Commission testified before the committee on August 22, saying the state needs a coordinated effort to stop the illegal machines.

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Missouri Legislators Finally Discussing Ways to Enforce and Eliminate Illegal Gambling Machines Across the State

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the worrisome issue in Missouri of illegal slot machines popping up across the state in non-licensed locations such as gas stations and the even worse possibility of legislators contemplation making slot machines legal outside of casinos. However, the concern rose over such a massive expansion of gambling has now shifted to enforcement methods to eliminate illegal slot machines. So far it seems to be the responsibility of local prosecutors as the Gaming Commission can only enforce regulated, legal gambling. An online source explains: 

After years of inaction by Missouri lawmakers, the push may be on to take aim at the tens of thousands of illegal slot machines spreading across the state. In the first meeting of a special House committee formed to address gambling laws in the state, the chairman of the panel said he believes Missourians want to unplug the illegal terminals, which have popped up in gas stations, taverns and convenience stores. 

The Missouri Gaming Commission has deemed the terminals as “gambling devices,” which are prohibited outside of Missouri’s 13 licensed casinos. But, there is little agreement on how to control their spread. The Missouri Gaming Commission says it can only police establishments that have bingo licenses. And the Missouri Department of Public Safety, which oversees liquor licenses, says it cannot crack down on the machines because of a court ruling in 2000 that found the agency has no authority to seize gambling devices. For now, it appears most of the work to crack down on the machines is on the backs of the state’s 115 county prosecutors, a process which Rep. Dirk Deaton, R-Noel, called “cumbersome.”

However, it seems that many Missouri legislators believe its time to find a statewide solution to the problem, although many interests are in play. An online source explains: 

David Grothaus, executive director of the gaming commission, urged lawmakers to find a statewide solution. “What the state needs is a very focused effort on these illegal machines,” Grothaus told the panel. Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, D-St. Louis, said she knows of at least five locations within her district where illegal terminals are located. “It blows my mind that they are that blatant,” said Rep. Wes Rogers, D-Kansas City. “These illegal machines are everywhere. I have several of them in my district,” Shaul added. Shaul said some of the blame for the situation lies with the Legislature.

Finding a solution could be a tough sell when lawmakers gather for their annual session in January because of the varied interests involved in the debate.

Casino operators are opposed to legalizing the machines because they could cut into their profits. Casinos also want to begin taking wagers on sporting events, but the terminal operators don’t want to allow that without getting the ability to operate legally.

Among the companies linked to the spread of illegal gambling is Torch Electronics, which is managed by Steve Miltenberger of Wildwood. The company has hired a team of well-connected lobbyists and has pumped at least $20,000 in contributions to a campaign committee raising money for Gov. Mike Parson. Miltenberger, who previously worked for video gambling companies in Illinois, where they have been taxed and regulated since 2012, has placed video terminals in businesses across Missouri over the past year. 

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Missouri Prosecutors Advance Lawsuit to Shutdown Illegal Gambling Machines Popping Up Across the State

Casino Watch Focus has reported on a recent gambling expansion proposal in Missouri that would legalize slot machines outside of casinos. Currently, legalized gambling in Missouri is limited to a set number of licensed and regulated casinos that exist along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The proposal would be an unprecedented expansion in gambling, as it would allow slot machines virtually anywhere in the state. However, the state is currently seeing similar expansion due to illegal gambling machines that operate exactly as these proposed slot machines would. These machines are popping up all over Missouri and the manufacture claims they are not slot machines because the reveal the result of the next spin to the player. These machines act exactly like the pre-reveal machines Florida had to deal with recently and the courts quickly called them out as illegal slot machines. It’s very clear that even though the initial spin shown is your outcome, it’s the spin after that the gambler is paying to see. Players are simply paying in advance and the subsequent outcomes are all a matter of chance. It is a slot machine through and through and a Platte County prosecutor is cracking down on these machines through a new lawsuit that seeks to get clarification by the court. An online source explains:

They look like slot machines, but they aren’t inside a casino.

Video gambling machines have been popping up across Missouri, including in St. Joseph, which has led one prosecutor to file criminal charges to stop their spread. Integrity Vending LLC, based in Kansas, currently faces one felony county of promoting gambling in Platte County.

“In Missouri, games of chance are illegal,” Eric Zahnd, the Platte County Prosecuting Attorney said. “These machines, according to the manufacturer, reveal whether or not you’ll win the next round of the game so they allege that it’s not a game of chance.”

“However to continue to play you have to play through those losing rounds,” Zahnd said.

The legal question that a judge must resolve is whether or not the machines constitute a game of chance, like a slot machine or video poker game. According to Zahnd, the company who distributed the machines, Integrity Vending LLC, has agreed to remove the machines if they’re determined to be illegal. 

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