Counsel representing Missouri on behalf of Attorney General Andrew Bailey was recently pulled from a lawsuit regarding the influx of unregulated slot machines across the state.
Bailey’s campaign for AG had accepted contributions from political actions committees tied to the plaintiffs in the case, creating a conflict. The suit was filed by the manufacturer of unregulated gambling machines after law enforcement began seizing the machines, deeming them illegal.
Bailey chose to remain hands-off in going after illegal gambling machines
The slot machines are known as video lottery terminals, or VLTs. The Missouri gambling machines have sprung up in gas stations and bars across the state. After becoming AG on Jan. 9, Bailey made it clear that he had no interest in doing anything about the machines.
“That is an issue that’s up to local law enforcement investigators and local prosecutors.”
The issue has spilled over to the Missouri General Assembly. Lawmakers’ efforts to legalize sports betting have been stymied by one lawmaker’s insistence that VLTs be made legal so tax money can be collected from them.
In the current session of the General Assembly, Sen. Denny Hoskins has once again filibustered the effort, putting legalization in serious jeopardy again in 2023. The session ends May 5.
Torch claims its machines are legal because they’re not a game of chance
According to the Missouri Independent, Torch Electronics LLC filed the lawsuit against the state because it alleges the crackdowns on its machines are a form of “harassment and intimidation.”
Authorities recently seized their machines from a series of locations, including Warrenton Oil’s convenience stores. After that happened, Warrenton Oil joined in on the case against the state of Missouri.
Charles Hatfield, attorney for the plaintiffs, claims authorities are incorrectly interpreting the law.
“These government officials continue to threaten to remove Torch devices based solely on their own incorrect interpretations of Missouri gambling laws.”
Torch argues its machines are legal because players know the outcome before they place a bet. Torch says that makes them a game of skill, not chance, so they’re legal. Others counter that a player cannot continue to bet until they get through the current bet, even if the machine tells them the outcome.
So far, lawmakers, and the AG, have refused to clear up the confusion concerning the legality of the machines. This lawsuit could answer that question.
Bailey has clear conflict of interest after accepting donations from PACs
In so many words, Madeline Sieren, spokeswoman for Bailey, made it clear counsel withdrew due to conflict of interest.
“Our office followed our longstanding practice of retaining conflict counsel to avoid any appearance of impropriety.”
Bailey is clearly tied to plaintiffs in the case he was defending after his campaign received thousands of dollars in contributions from the plaintiff’s PACs.
These PACs are tied to Steve Tilley, a lobbyist for Torch and Warrenton. Public records show that five PACs linked to Tilley contributed $25,000 in total to Bailey’s PAC in December 2022.
Prior to that, the PACs received $40,000 in contributions from Torch. The PACs are:
- MO Majority PAC
- Missouri Senior PAC
- Missouri C PAC
- MO AG PAC
- Missouri Growth PAC
Warrenton Oil also contributed $1,000 to Bailey’s Liberty and Justice PAC.
Bailey’s decision to keep contributions is costing taxpayers, opponent says
Sieren refused to answer questions as to why Bailey did not return the money. That decision is costing taxpayers, Elad Gross, a candidate running against Bailey for the AG seat, wrote on Twitter.
“Andrew Bailey wants to keep his campaign contributions from illegal gambling companies. So now, instead of enforcing the law, he’s making the state spend more taxpayer money to hire a private attorney to do his job!”
Court records show David McCain and Jason Lewis were removed from the case. They were replaced by AG-hired private attorney Scott Pool from Gibbs Pool and Turner PC. He will now be the lead attorney defending the case from Torch.
Sieren says all lawyers will paid the standard rate.
“We’re paying them the same contract rate we pay all outside counsel.”