Missouri State Highway Patrol

The owners and operators of video gaming machines may soon be out of luck now that the state is cracking down on the illegal machines housed in gas stations and other locations.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol is following up on 73 complaints of video lottery terminals, often referred to as VLTs, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The same machines have been found in Franklin County at several locations.

According to the Post-Dispatch, complaints to the Missouri Gaming Commission were turned over to the patrol for investigation. The gaming commission concluded that the machines are illegal.

Earlier this year, The Missourian reported that electronic gaming machines are located in ZX stations in Washington and Union owned by Midwest Petroleum.

The Missourian contacted county officials, as well as city of Washington staff, who were not aware of the legality of the VLTs, or that the machines were being operated in the county.

Attorney General Eric Schmitt has not publicly weighed in on the legality of the machines. His office declined a formal request for an opinion from Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, because of the pending litigation in Platte County, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Failed Legislation

Legislation regulating electronic gaming machines in Missouri failed to pass in the 2019 session.

In June, Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, told The Missourian his fight isn’t over, and voiced his concerns to Schmitt.

Schatz said despite his interpretation of state statute that the machines are illegal, because of the gray area and no court precedent, county prosecutors don’t know how to proceed with complaints they may receive.

The Platte County case could open the door for prosecution. 

Schatz estimated there are hundreds of retail locations in the state of Missouri operating illegal gaming machines, which have cost the Missouri Lottery Commission $3.2 million in sales over the first six months of 2019.

In his estimation, the machines are subverting legal gaming in the state and undercutting legal Missouri Lottery products by an estimated $90,000 per illegal machine in the state.

His bill went through the committee process and despite not making much progress, was later added as an amendment to House Bill 119. That bill, which included provisions relating to sports wagering, failed to pass due to “personality differences,” according to Schatz.

The legislation would have allowed the MGC to enter into agreements with federal, state and local agencies to investigate criminal provisions relating to illegal gambling.

However, in July the lead attorney for the Missouri Gaming Commission ruled that the VLTs are “gambling devices,” which are prohibited outside of licensed casinos, according to The Post-Dispatch.

Machines

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.”

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.

Missourian Staff Writer Monte Miller contributed to this story.