The state of Missouri saw the beginning of the yearly battle over what has to be categorized as an unlawful gambling machine on January 13th, with a Senate committee hearing on a proposed piece of legislation aimed at suspending so-called “pre-reveal” games across the state.
Although a number of prosecutions are still pending, and at least two more have already received guilty verdicts, many Missouri prosecutors are unwilling to back changes in the status quo. Some of them do not even believe the games are illegal in the first place.
The legislative effort in the Senate is headed by Senator Dan Hegeman for the second year. On January 13th, he informed the Government Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee that he is convinced that local prosecutors do not need a piece of legislation in order to act. At the time, Senator Hegeman pointed out an instance when in 2021 a gambling company faced conviction of offering illegal “pre-reveal” games, its machines in Platte County were destroyed, and the company suffered a monetary penalty.
In addition, lobbyist Tom Robbins revealed that the bill sponsored by Senator Hegeman is intended to pave the way for one of the main vendors of games – Torch Electronics – in Missouri. Mr. Robins explained that the games offered by Torch Electronics are legal because they inform players if they will generate a winning in the next game before they spend any money on the machine, unlike the games offered in Platte County that were found illegal.
Pre-Reveal Games Are Not Illegal Slot Machines, Gambling Lobbyists Say
A number of vendors, including Torch Electronics, offer pre-reveal games that look like standard electronic slot machines and take bets of 50 cents and more. Currently, operating slot machines outside a licensed casino venue is not allowed in Missouri. When placing money in such slot machines, players do not know the outcome of the next spin. Unlike standard slot machines, pre-reveal games show whether the player will win the next game before they even put any money in the machine.
Currently, Torch Electronics faces prosecution for the illegal promotion of gambling services in Linn County. The company has filed a lawsuit against the state in Cole County Circuit Court in an effort to get an official confirmation its services are legally offered.
The company is known as a large contributor to political parties. Reportedly, in June 2021 it donated a total of $350,000 into 6 political action committees related to its lobbyist Steve Tilley who has close links to Governor Mike Parson.
Lobbyist Tom Robins addressed the Committee, saying that Torch Electronics is unfairly targetted by the bill. He further noted that other provisions in the piece of legislation proposed by Senator Hegeman would eliminate the liquor licenses of retailers that hols the controversial machines, which could cause significant lay-offs at such businesses.
The Committee did not vote on the bill rolled out by Senator Hegeman. In fact, it is one of the several pieces of legislation that would bring changes to the gambling landscape of the state of Missouri. A number of bills seeking to officially allow sports betting at the 13 licensed casino venues in the state have also been tabled. They also seek permission for the Missouri Lottery to place so-called video lottery terminals (VLTs) in non-profit groups’ facilities and truck stops across the state.