JEFFERSON CITY — Officials from Missouri’s 13 cities that have casinos on Wednesday called for a stronger crackdown on illegal slot machines that have flooded the state in recent years.
Members of the Missouri Home Dock City Association said Attorney General Eric Schmitt, county prosecutors and law enforcement should act aggressively to enforce laws banning unregulated and untaxed slot machines in convenience stores, bars and truck stops.
“Only Missouri voters can decide where gambling can legally take place in our state, and currently that’s limited to our 13 state-licensed riverside casinos,” said Maryland Heights Mayor Mike Moeller, who is president. of the coalition.
The state Constitution prohibits gambling outside of regulations established by the state gaming commission.
But companies like Wildwood-based Torch Electronics have placed as many as 14,000 machines in gas stations and other establishments.
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The Missouri Highway Patrol said the slot machines were illegal, but prosecutions have been spotty. And, the legislature hasn’t budged on the issue amid intense lobbying by politically connected consultants who are on the payroll of Torch.
“For more than a decade, a handful of companies ignored this voter-approved structure by placing thousands of illegal slot machines in gas stations, truck stops and other places of convenience. illegal subcontractors have eluded state rules of regulation and transparency and are failing to provide the job creation and economic development required by the Missouri Constitution and state law,” Moeller said.
The group-approved resolution follows a similar announcement by the Missouri Municipal League in November.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers likened Torch to an illegal drug dealer, calling the argument that his video game devices aren’t games of chance “cowardly and fictitious.”
The Senate is considering Senate Bill 632, which would clearly state that an illegal gaming device is a device not regulated by state gaming authorities that involves cash payments. It prohibits individuals and businesses convicted of illegal gambling from participating in any future expansion of legal video gambling in the state.
It forces the Missouri Gaming Commission to refer the tips to the Missouri Highway Patrol, which would be required to investigate.
The legislation also threatens the liquor licenses of establishments that gaming authorities or law enforcement report to be in possession of an illegal gaming device.
The Home Dock Cities Association said police and prosecutors needed to do more.
“It’s high time our state’s law enforcement community pulled these machines out of our local communities and held the manufacturers accountable instead of allowing them to pocket millions of dollars into the pockets of key lawmakers to change the laws. without a vote of the people,” Mayor Moeller said. . “To date, Missouri state legislators have denied all such requests.”