Fact Finders: Are gambling machines in gas stations legal?
This week’s Fact Finders: Are gambling machines allowed in gas stations?
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - St. Louis area lawmaker Rasheen Aldridge plans to file a bill to address all the gambling machines you see in gas stations. That’s the subject of this week’s Fact Finders: Are gambling machines allowed in gas stations?
Missouri has 13 regulated casinos. For other situations, The Missouri Highway Patrol considers machines outside a casino illegal. It has what’s called an Illegal Gaming Investigations Unit. It started in June 2019.
Missouri state law says it is illegal to have gambling machines outside a regulated casino. It’s specific about slot machines, “A person commits the offense of possession of a gambling device if, with knowledge of the character thereof, he or she manufactures, sells, transports, places or possesses, or conducts or negotiates any transaction affecting or designed to affect ownership, custody or use of a slot machine.”
Here’s where the grey area comes in some of these machines reveal the outcome of a bet before you spin the wheel. So, you know if it’s a winner or a loser before you play. But if you have a loser coming next you can’t get to a winner without placing the losing bet.
“The machine maker claims they are “amusement devices” similar to getting tickets at the arcade to buy things later,” explained Grant Rahmeyer of Rah Law. “Many law enforcement agencies disagree and claim these machines are simply gambling devices.”
The gaming commission wants lawmakers to act to clear up any perceived confusion.
“We would like to see some clarity, either license them, prohibit them, whatever it is, they do, we’ll be glad to implement. And we have experienced doing that. But it is an issue because we just don’t have any authority there. So either give us the authority, legalize them, whatever they want. We just think it’s time to act on that,” explained Missouri Gaming Commission Chairman Mike Leara.
Platte County’s Prosecutor Eric Zahnd says there’s no grey area. He went after an operation there and won. “Despite the fact that so-called “no chance” gambling machines are commonly seen in convenience stores and other locations across Missouri, they are illegal slot machines,” asserted Zahnd. “Slot machines can only be located in regulated casinos. This particular technology may be new, but the law dates back to the early twentieth century. Even machines that theoretically give a player the opportunity to know the outcome of a game still constitute gambling.”
The Missouri Gaming Commission says it is up to your local prosecutor to decide what to do. So far, prosecutors have filed 31 cases related to promoting or possessing gambling machines in 2022, including cases filed in Barry, Christian, and Camden Counties.
If you see what you suspect is an illegal gaming operation, you can call it the tip line. It’s (573) 526-4080.
Circling back to the viewer’s question, are gambling machines allowed in gas stations? Some local prosecutors clearly say the devices are illegal. The Missouri Highway Patrol has a unit dedicated to this issue. We’re going to slide this to no. But, it’s a complicated no – as you’ve just read.
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