What Is Illegal Gambling In Missouri? Sen. Dave Schatz Has New Bill To Provide Answer

Written By Derek Helling on January 28, 2021

As technology continues to innovate industries, legal structures will always be slow to react.

That’s the issue that a new illegal gambling bill addresses in the Missouri Senate. As with every other legal change of this type, catching up with the times has consequences.

SB 10 would not only provide more clarity to what exactly constitutes unlawful gaming in the state but also procedures for enforcing statutes. The tenets of the bill aren’t widely celebrated throughout the Show-Me State.

Illegal gambling bill seeks crackdown on “grey machines”

Depending on the interpretation of existing gaming law in Missouri, the latest bill from Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz makes the operation of gambling machines without a casino license “more illegal.” It would expand the reach of the Missouri Gaming Commission (MGC) to enforce that part of the code.

Right now, the MGC can work with certain federal and state agencies along those lines. This bill would expand that to include the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the supervisor of the Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control. The penalties for offering gambling without appropriate licensure would also increase.

That could mean more of the kind of busts that took place in Joplin late last year. Authorities there discovered nearly two dozen slot machines. Violators in similar circumstances may face new consequences like the revocation of their licenses to sell lottery tickets.

Illegal gambling in Missouri too prominent to ignore

Involving the highway patrol and liquor control would greatly expand the reach of enforcement. It would also appear necessary. Schatz believes the number of establishments offering illegal gambling is legitimately problematic.

“I filed SB 10 because of the proliferation of illegal gambling machines throughout the state,” Schatz said before the Government Accountability & Fiscal Oversight Committee.

“There are dozens — if not hundreds — of establishments across the state of Missouri that house these unauthorized gaming machines. There is no grey area with this; the gaming laws are black and white, and this is impacting revenues that should be going to our schools. There’s no need for us to not move this legislation forward.”

However, others in the state feel the law isn’t as clear as Schatz suggests. They believe the additions SB 10 would make to the state code proves the current ambiguity of the statutes.

Stakeholders pushing back against SB 10

The most controversial tenets of the bill are new language regarding what exactly constitutes an illegal gambling machine. Under SB 10, any machine that uses a random number generator involving cash prizes that isn’t approved by the MGC or state lottery would be illegal.

That definition ruffles the feathers of people with financial stakes in “grey-market” gaming. Some Missouri establishments do currently take advantage of decisions not to enforce the “no gambling machines outside of casinos” policy.

Examples of this include gas stations and fraternal organizations. If SB 10 becomes law, it will become a much riskier prospect to house these machines. Although Schatz has filed the bill and it has been read in committee, a vote has not yet taken place.

That language could come to a head if the bill proceeds out of committee. Last year, lobbyists for the legalization of such gambling were able to sway several members of the Senate to their side. At the same time, casinos in the state will probably support such a measure because it aligns with their interests.

If the same divisions exist in the state legislature this term, this could become one of the most controversial bills of the session. The state will soon have to decide the matter of legality surrounding gambling machines outside casinos.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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