In an effort to crack down on slot machine operators in Missouri, a group of lawmakers have pushed a bill proposing stiff penalties against business owners already offering action. However, that bill may be dead on arrival, as some within the Missouri Senate want a more thorough proposal.
On February 17, State Senator Mike Cunningham shelved a bill he helped propose that would outlaw all slot machine type games in facilities such as gas stations, bars and clubs. A bi-partisan group of senators immediately opposed the bill, as it only addressed existing slots and made no provision for legalizing and licensing slots action going forward.
Sen. Karla May was one of the senators who opposed Cunningham, commenting, “We’re smart enough to do both — set the standard for illegal and set the standard for legal.” She plans to offer an amendment that would legalize the machines by allowing the Missouri Lottery Board to license operators.
While there seems to be significant support for combining the two initiatives into one bill, Senate President Dave Schatz believes that something has to be done about existing operations first before any new legal gambling provisions can be considered. “Until we can fix illegal gaming in this state, I don’t see how we can advance legal gaming,” he explained.
It is estimated that over 14,000 slot machines are in operation in Missouri. Prosecutors are conflicted as to whether they should charge operators as current laws are a little ambiguous about their status.
Sen. Schatz believes that the proposed law would clear this up, as they define these slot machines as “gambling devices.” With that definition, current operations would be illegal without a license. This, the senator explained, is diverting money that would’ve gone to public education, because game providers are not paying taxes.
Sen. Cunningham believes the machines currently running are a problem worth dealing with right away. “This is just blatant, right in front of us, just poking us in the eye. We personally think it’s illegal.”
The senators who want a more thorough law argue that the current one offered lacks due process for businesses currently operating slots machines. “According to this, it looks like there’s no due process,” said Sen. Denny Hoskins. Sen. Bill Eigel added, “Should they (the operator) not have the opportunity to defend themselves?”
Slot machines aren’t the only new action Missouri is considering legalizing. At the end of January, the Missouri House committee sent the bill to the floor that would legalize sports betting.