ST. CHARLES — A Platte County Circuit Court judge on Tuesday found a Kansas-based company guilty of promoting illegal gambling in the first degree, a class E felony that carries a fine of up to $10,000.
The ruling against Shawnee, Kansas-based Integrity Vending LLC likely will have wide-ranging consequences: gaming companies have long argued that their machines are legal under Missouri law; the Missouri Highway Patrol and some county prosecutors have disagreed, saying the machines are illegal gambling devices.
Observers had long awaited Judge Thomas Fincham’s ruling for clarity on what kind of games Missouri law actually allows.
Fincham held a trial on Aug. 25. He scheduled a sentencing hearing for 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 23.
In post-trial briefs, Integrity Vending argued that a “prize viewer” function on its machines removed the element of chance from its games, and thus the games were not gambling devices.
The viewer allows a player to see the outcome of a wager before moving forward with it. But if the viewer shows that a player will lose, the player still must place the losing bet in order to have a chance at winning again.
A player doesn’t have to use the prize viewer function.
Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd, in his post-trial brief, said: “If a player did not know about the pre-reveal (prize viewer) feature or chose not to utilize it, there is no difference between NCG (no-chance games) and slot machines.”
The unregulated machines — state officials estimated last year there were about 14,000 of them in gas stations, bars and clubs across the state — have come under fire because of the stealth nature by which they were deployed.
Unlike regulated gaming, no proceeds are diverted to education. There are also no government-sanctioned resources for addicted gamblers or rules to protect consumers from low payouts.
Editor's note: an earlier version of this article misstated the date of the ruling.
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