Gambling laws in the state of Missouri have always been very strict, especially when it comes to gambling machine operations. This, however, has not stopped a few more operators from entering the gambling machine sector of the state. This enterprise has been an extremely lucrative niche but, unfortunately, it may not be 100% legal, and the lack of regulatory clarity in the state is only making the situation worse.
Currently, the Missouri Lottery and the Missouri State Patrol are reviewing two Arkansas-based companies to make sure the operators are not breaching laws by installing gambling machines.
According to reports, allegedly unregulated video gambling terminals have been placed in convenience stores, bars and restaurants in the southern part of Missouri. Two companies – PB08 Electronic Ventures Inc and Lone Wolfe Entertainment LLC – have installed the machines and the owners of the establishments that hosted the terminals have gladly welcomed the opportunity, as the machines generate a steady revenue flow because they remain quite popular among local users.
May Scheve-Reardon, the director of the Missouri Lottery, is worried that the rapid proliferation of the video gambling machines has not taken into consideration the lack of regulatory clarity in the territory of the state.
Missouri Legislative and Regulatory Framework Regarding VGTs Remains Vague and Unclear
As mentioned above, this has not stopped out-of-state companies from trying to expand their VGT services in Missouri.
Ms. Scheve-Reardon shared her concern that the controversial video gaming machines will soon start to affect the revenue generated by the Missouri Lottery. According to her, one of the most questionable operators is currently Torch Electronic, which has continuously insisted that it is legally allowed to continue the installation of VGT across the state.
The controversy associated with the video gambling machines has caused certain problems for the aforementioned company. Journalists have investigated the alleged links between the company and some lobbyists who have been trying to convince local lawmakers to establish a more favorable and relaxed legislative and regulatory framework toward video gambling machines. On the other hand, the attempts to fully eliminate VGTs from the state of Missouri have failed.
Missouri Lottery officials worry that the proliferation of video gambling machines will seriously affect the lottery ticket sales, with the popularity of the VGTs cutting deeply into the gambling revenue that would otherwise be redirected to good causes and will be used to fund educational or social programs within the state. A 4.8% decline in ticket sales has already been registered so far in 2022, but it still remains unclear whether this fall can be attributed to the machines or not.
In 2021, local legislators promised to deal with the machines once and for all. However, at the time when the previous legislative session was closed in May, there was no noticeable progress as to whether the machines are considered legal or not under the existing laws of the state. The previous legislative session has not seen a framework under which the machines have been officially legalized and forced to pay taxes.