A controversial gambling company based in Wildwood has still been spending money to affect Missouri politics despite legal battles, including criminal charges of illegal gambling.
According to records of the Missouri ethics commission, on June 28th, Torch Electronics, a slot machine company based in Wildwood, sent the amount of $90,000 to a political action committee associated with Steve Tilley, an ex-speaker for the Missouri House who is now lobbying for the gambling company. His father, Everett Tilley, is currently the treasurer of the political action committee based in Perryville that was established in 2013.
Yesterday, it was still unknown where the money would be sent by the Missouri Growth PAC. According to media reports, the Torch spokesman Gregg Keller, who is also a GOP political consultant, did not respond to requests for comment.
Records of the state ethics commission have shown that Uniting Missouri, the political action committee of Governor Mike Parson, has received $20,000 from Torch Electronics since July 2018. Meanwhile, the slot machine operator, whose terminals are situated in bars and gas stations across the state, is facing some legal setbacks, including illegal gambling charges in Linn County. The charges of promoting gambling in the first decree are considered a class E felony an in case the company is found guilty, it would be forced to pay a monetary fine of $10,000. A hearing of the case is set to take place in a couple of weeks, on July 15th.
The Slot Machine Operator Is Involved in Several Legal Battles
The aforementioned court battle is not the only courtroom headache that is troubling Torch Electronics. An unhappy customer seeking his money back is taking the company to court in Crawford County. The gambler, called Paul Blankenship is pursuing class-action status for his lawsuit so other customers are also able to join the case.
Mr. Blankenship has accused the gambling operator of violating the gambling laws of Missouri and the state constitution, under which slot machines are limited to excursion gambling boats. The attorney in the Crawford County case works for the same Clayton-based law firm representing the owner of TNT Amusements of Sullivan, Jim Turntine, who late in 2019 filed a lawsuit against Torch Electronics, calling for a judge to have the gambling company’s slot devices hosted at a local truck stop shut. Earlier this month, that legal case was transferred to Circuit Judge Kristine Kerr from St. Louis County.
So far, the gambling company has been claiming that its slot terminals are legal because its games do not feature an element of chance. As explained by Torch Electronics, players are given the opportunity to click an icon showing a wager’s outcome. Furthermore, even in case the icon shows the player they are to lose their next bet, the gambler has no other choice than to move forward with the losing bet so that they are given the chance to try their luck and win.
Also, the slot machine operator has been blamed that portions of its revenue are not contributed to the community as it is for legalized games. There are no official gambling addicts exclusion lists and currently, no laws establish minimum payouts, which basically means that operators of illegal slot machines can pay their customers less than the companies that run regulated terminals. So far this year, the efforts to regulate the machines were unsuccessful in local Legislature.