Sen. Dave Schatz’s Legislative Column for Oct. 7, 2020

Stopping Illegal Gambling in the Show-Me State

Have you noticed new “gaming” machines popping up in gas stations and convenience stores in our community? I have noticed them, and this week, I wanted to write about what I believe is the proliferation of illegal, so-called “gray” gambling machines throughout our state.

Through their actions at the ballot box, Missourians have voiced their support for strict regulations on gambling. As I watched these “gray” machines appear in our community, I recognized that something needed to be done. As a result, I filed legislation during the 2019 legislative session to crack down on these “gray” machines. These types of gambling machines exist in gas stations, truck stops, fraternal organizations and other paces and are not subject to the same taxes, fees and regulatory rules that apply to slot machines and other games of chance in our state’s regulated casinos. Unfortunately, state law is not necessarily clear when it comes to these types of machines; however, I believe they are unlawful and should not be allowed anywhere outside of our state’s casinos. Moreover, I am not alone in this; the Missouri Gaming Commission also views these machines as illegal. In addition, I believe these machines also weaken the Missouri Lottery, which helps fund public education in our state.

Examples of illegal machines found at retail locations where traditional lottery products are sold.

Recently, a judge in Platte County ruled on a case involving these types of machines. In 2019, the Platte County prosecuting attorney charged Integrity Vending LLC with one felony count of promoting gambling for operating multiple “no chance” gambling machines. These machines have the ability to reveal the outcome of a game before a player even begins playing, which leads many to claim that they are not games of chance. Advocates claim it’s not gambling if the player already knows the outcome. Recently, the judge in the case found the company guilty of promoting illegal gambling, and I agree — these machines are illegal.

Integrity Vending faces a fine of up to $10,000 in the case. In my opinion, Integrity Vending will almost certainly appeal the ruling, and the Court of Appeals will probably hear its appeal sometime in 2021. I remain confident that the machines are illegal under Missouri law, and I would be surprised if the Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s ruling. The result of this case only strengthens my legislative resolve to make it 100% clear that these “gray” machines are prohibited under state law. Similar litigation is pending in other counties throughout the state.

Missouri has an established system of regulating games of chance. The citizens of our state have plenty of chances to hit a jackpot at one of our licensed casinos and through products from the Missouri Lottery, like scratcher tickets and other lottery products. These illegitimate gambling machines undercut legal gaming and negatively affect education funding in our state, and I look forward to working again in 2021 to make it abundantly clear that these “gray” machines are illegal and have no place in the Show-Me State.

As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Missouri Senate. If you have any other questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (573) 751-3678 or by email at — we are honored to serve you.