Joplin Illegal Gambling Bust Suggests ‘Grey Machines’ May Be Prevalent In Missouri

Written By Derek Helling on January 20, 2021 - Last Updated on January 21, 2021

Last year, the legalization of video lottery terminals (VLTs) in places like bars and truck stops was a controversial issue in the Missouri legislature.

A recent raid of an illegal gambling operation in Joplin suggests the state may have to soon take more action on these “grey machines.”

Police confiscated nearly two dozen slot machines at an unlicensed store last month. However, a similar setup may eventually become perfectly legal in the Show-Me State.

Details on the illegal gambling operation in Joplin

The Chill House, a store that sells CBD products, was the site of the raid on Dec. 17. So far, only the store’s owner — Dinesh K. Sood of Rogers, Arkansas — has been named in connection to any criminal charges.

Authorities found 23 slot machines on the premises. Earlier in the month, undercover detectives played real money on the machines, netting cash prizes.

Not only is it illegal to offer slot play without a license in Missouri, but there are also strict requirements for the types of companies and facilities that can apply for such licensure. Additionally, promoting gambling without a license is illegal as well.

It’s unclear whether any of the people playing the machines on-site at the time of the raid will have charges filed against them. In a year or two, these situations in Missouri could look very different.

What’s the difference between a slot machine and a VLT?

Video lottery terminals appear and function very similarly to video slot machines you would find in a Missouri casino. The main difference is in how they determine wins.

Slot machines tend to use what is essentially a random number generator. Each time you “pull the lever,” the machination inside pulls up a result randomly.

VLTs, on the other hand, determine wins based on a preset sequence. So, essentially, whether or not you win is literally a matter of being on the right machine at the right time.

Because those types of games aren’t explicitly forbidden by Missouri law, some establishments offer them. Thus far, state law enforcement has mostly foregone pressing the issue.

While the state has decided it’s not worth the resources to go after current VLT operators, it isn’t getting any tax revenue from the games either. That could change this year.

MO might include VLT legalization in gambling expansion

Last year, it was the linchpin issue that held everything up. This year, lawmakers on both sides of this debate may come to a compromise on the matter.

Rep. Wes Rogers believes VLT legalization will be part of an omnibus revenue bill that gets through the rigors in Jefferson City at some point this year. There’s still a lot to determine as far as what that will look like goes.

Whether establishments like the Chill House will be able to offer VLT play is one of those considerations. If that ends up being the case, then perhaps the owner would have been better served to simply have waited.

Photo by AP / Mike Groll
Derek Helling Avatar
Written by
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.

View all posts by Derek Helling