They look like slot machines, but they aren’t inside a casino.
Video gambling machines have been popping up across Missouri, including in St. Joseph, which has led one prosecutor to file criminal charges to stop their spread. Integrity Vending LLC, based in Kansas, currently faces one felony county of promoting gambling in Platte County.
“In Missouri, games of chance are illegal,” Eric Zahnd, the Platte County Prosecuting Attorney said. “These machines, according to the manufacturer, reveal whether or not you’ll win the next round of the game so they allege that it’s not a game of chance.”
“However to continue to play you have to play through those losing rounds,” Zahnd said.
The legal question that a judge must resolve is whether or not the machines constitute a game of chance, like a slot machine or video poker game. According to Zahnd, the company who distributed the machines, Integrity Vending LLC, has agreed to remove the machines if they’re determined to be illegal.
Because there are only legal questions to determine and not factual ones, Integrity Vending’s trial, which is set for December, will be a bench trial only. The lawyer representing the company, Tom Bath, could not be reached for comment by News-Press NOW on Thursday.
“We don’t really have a dispute about the facts of the case,” Zahnd said. “The dispute is what about the law says.”
Zahnd said the dispute between the company and his office has thus far been amicable.
“They have what they believe to be a good faith argument that these machines are legal,” Zahnd said. “If these machines are legal we’ll certainly stand down and not try to prosecute any additional companies.”
The case against Integrity Vending LLC was initially sparked when a Parkville, Missouri, police officer spotted three of the machines in a convenience store at 7500 N.W. River Park Drive in Parkville, according to court documents. Those documents also state that another set of the machines were spotted at another convenience store at 9932 N.W. Missouri Highway 45.
Two of the machines at the second store were seized pursuant to a search warrant, according to a probable cause statement filed in the case.
“Once payment is received, the user may then select from one of six games,” Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper J.M. Owen said in a probable cause statement. “Once the game is selected, the user selects an amount to wager.”
“The gambling device provides a short graphical video, which implies a random choice is being made,” Owen said in the statement.
According to Zahnd, the responsibility falls to local prosecutors to enforce the law because the Missouri Gaming Commission only has limited jurisdiction. In addition to gas stations, Zahnd said the machines can frequently be found in fraternal organizations’ buildings.