Are gaming machines in gas stations legal in Franklin County? Nobody really knows.
The machines are not regulated or monitored by the Missouri Gaming Commission, yet they are easily accessible in multiple locations in Franklin County and clearly state they make cash payouts.
Specifically, the machines are located in ZX stations in Washington and Union owned by Midwest Petroleum.
According to Public Information Officer LeAnn McCarthy, the Missouri Gaming Commission (MGC) only regulates riverboat gambling, charity bingo and fantasy sports.
“We (MGC) have no jurisdiction over those,” McCarthy said. “If we get a report about them, we refer it the Missouri Highway Patrol Division of Drug and Crime Patrol. After their investigations, it is handed to the local prosecuting attorneys.”
McCarthy added for an activity to be classified as gambling in the state of Missouri, an action has to be advertised as having a prize, chance and consideration.
Washington City Clerk Mary Trentmann said she had no knowledge the machines were being operated in city limits and has no knowledge of any licenses being issued for them.
Attorney Mark Piontek, who serves as legal counsel for the city of Washington and as Franklin County counselor, was surprised to hear the machines were in use in Washington.
“It’s my belief they are not legal outside of a casino,” Piontek said. “I’m not sure about the state gambling rules, but the city does not regulate them.”
Since the machines are in operation at locations other than Washington, The Missourian contacted Franklin County Clerk Tim Baker, who along with County Collector Doug Trentmann, searched state statutes for legality of the gaming machines, but found nothing specific on the machines.
Baker explained if any type of license for the machines was to be issued by Franklin County, it would be from the county collector’s office.
“Nobody has come into Franklin County asking for a license,” Baker said.
Large stickers on the front and sides of the machines post the headline “No Contest/No Chance Amusement Device.”
The machines also bear stickers that state “Store can only redeem up to $500. All others paid from home office.”
As McCarthy stated, the aspect of “chance” must be in play for the action to be considered gambling.
The stickers on the machines attempt to skirt state gambling laws by stating the chances of winning are displayed before every game and the outcome is “known” before the game is initiated.
According to the Missouri Revisor of Statutes Chapter 572.010:
• “Gambling device,” is any device, machine, paraphernalia or equipment that is used or usable in the playing phases of any gambling activity, whether that activity consists of gambling between persons or gambling by a person with a machine.
• “Slot machine,” a gambling device that as a result of the insertion of a coin or other object operates, either completely automatically or with the aid of some physical act by the player, in such a manner that, depending upon elements of chance, it may eject something of value. Nor is it any less a slot machine because apart from its use or adaptability as such it may also sell or deliver something of value on a basis other than chance.
• “Something of value,” any money or property, any token, object or article exchangeable for money or property, or any form of credit or promise directly or indirectly contemplating transfer of money or property or of any interest therein or involving extension of a service, entertainment or a privilege of playing at a game or scheme without charge.
So what’s the difference?
Two calls to the St. Louis home office of Midwest Petroleum for an explanation were not returned.
Gaming machine regulations proposed by a Franklin County lawmaker would link potential illegal gaming to an establishment’s liquor license.
On Feb. 25, State Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, sponsored a bill that would allow the MGC to enter into agreements with federal, state, and local agencies for investigations relating to and the enforcement of criminal provisions relating to illegal gambling.
It also would modify the definition of “gambling device” for the purposes of provisions of law relating to the prosecution of illegal gambling by including any device, machine, paraphernalia, or equipment not approved by the Missouri Gaming Commission or State Lottery Commission.
If passed, the bill would require the MGC to establish a telephone contact number, which shall be prominently displayed on the commission’s website, to receive reports of suspected illegal gambling activity.
The commission shall initiate an investigation upon receiving such report. If the subject of an investigation is licensed under the Liquor Control Law or under provisions of law relating to gaming, such license shall be suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
If the commission finds sufficient evidence of illegal gambling, it shall refer such violation to the prosecuting attorney.
If the prosecuting attorney determines not to commence a case for such violation, the commission may forward the case to the attorney general’s office for review. If the attorney general determines there is probable cause of a violation of state law, the Attorney General may prosecute such case.
Any conviction in Missouri for illegal gambling shall result in the automatic and permanent revocation of a license issued under the Liquor Control Law, as well as any lottery game retailer license.