According to reports, there is apparently a lot of money to be made in illegal gambling in Utah. In one recent discovery, a local man was earning $8 million a year offering illegal slot machines inside a business that fronted as a driving school. Now, a state lawmaker wants to curb what is seen as a growing illegal gambling industry in Utah and has introduced legislation to provide better guidance on what is, and isn’t, gambling.
Salt Lake City, Utah’s Fox News affiliate, Fox13, reports that Senate minority leader Karen Mayne has drafted a bill that would correct legislation passed last year that has fueled more illegal gambling in the state. While gambling is illegal per Utah’s constitution, there are no gambling regulations, which means there are no provisions on the classification of gambling devices.
Mayne said during a news conference yesterday, “It’s a cancer that needs to be out of the state of Utah. If they want this kind of practice, it needs to be elsewhere because it’s bringing down all our communities, and bringing drug use, more violence, all those kinds of things. These are slot machines that are in mini-marts, laundromats, beauty salons, and they’re more aggressive every single day.”
Because of the oversight in the legal definitions of gambling or non-gambling, illegal operations have flourished in the state. In 2017, over 400 gambling machines were confiscated by the attorney general’s office in the state, and there could now be even more. One operation, uncovered in Layton, was earning around two hundred thousand dollars each month, and was apparently funded by the Russian mafia.
Layton’s city attorney, Gary Crane, explained at the time, “[The businesses] were fundamentally being financed and sponsored by the Russian mafia and he probably embellished the story somewhat but we do believe that that money was coming to and coming from an organization that was well outside of our American borders.”
In order to set things straight, Mayne is proposing legislation to define certain activities. Among these are strict definitions of what constitutes an amusement device, video game or vending machine. It would also provide coverage of what a gambling machine is, and would allow victims defrauded by illegal gambling to recuperate their losses, as well as additional monetary damages.
A supervising special agent for the Utah Attorney General’s Office, James Russell, supports the measure and hopes it finds enough backing. He asserts, “I would hope that this law would impact enough to give local jurisdictions the power to deal with this without having to fund it like a gaming commission or something like that.”