A Missouri lawmaker is making it clear. Police officers in Missouri should not be adding a second job that includes working for unregulated slot machine companies.
Missouri Rep. Justin Sparks gave a simple warning to officers who might be moonlighting for or at companies that house video lottery terminals.
“If they are doing it, I would say they should stop immediately. Cops shouldn’t be doing that at all. It’s a conflict of interest. It might even be illegal.”
Dispute over legality of VLTs continues in Missouri
Technically, playing slot machines for real money in Missouri is only legal at one of the 13 riverboat casinos in the state. Missouri online casinos are prohibited, while unregulated slot machines, or video lottery terminals, operate in a gray area of the law.
Video lottery terminals, or VLTs, can be found in gas stations, bars and rest stops across the state. Many of these slot machines are installed by Torch Electronics. The company contends VLTs are legal because they require skill. Many law officials dispute that, and several have confiscated terminals over the last few years. There is no regulation surrounding these machines, and no money is paid to the state in the form of taxes.
Sparks said off-duty police officers working for Torch or at businesses housing VLTs should reconsider their moonlighting job:
“If that’s happening, I would say something needs to change.”
New law could punish cops who work for unregulated gambling companies
One law has already been passed that could impact officers working in the unregulated slot machine industry. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation recently that punishes police officers who act in a way that could hurt the public.
That bill states that discipline can be doled out if a “peace officer has committed any act that involved moral turpitude or a reckless disregard for the safety of the public.”
The bill says a cop can be punished if he or she “has committed any act of gross misconduct indicating inability to function as a peace officer.” It goes into effect on Aug. 28.
Torch spokesman Gregg Keller gave a non-answer when asked about employing police officers.
“Of course, we don’t comment publicly on personnel matters.”
The law could be applied if the machines are deemed illegal. It puts the officer in a predicament. They would have to either bust the company who employs them or fail to uphold the law.
Missouri AG continues to take no action against VLTs
The problem with VLTs in Missouri is that many lawmakers are taking a hands-off approach to them. That includes Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey. Instead of either outlawing them or legalizing and regulating the machines, he has chosen to do nothing.
If outlawed, many players of these machines would seek out regulated casinos in Missouri. That would bring more tax dollars to the state. It would also clear up any confusion about officers working for these companies.
If these machines were regulated and legalized, Missouri would reap the benefit through more tax dollars for the state, and officers would be able to pick up shifts for companies like Torch.
Bailey believes the VLT problem is too complicated to solve with blanket legislation, which is also his reasoning for the delay on a solution.
“Not all the machines are the same. It’s impossible to make a blanket determination. … It’s complex.”
Some strongly disagree.
The Columbia Missourian published an editorial directed at Bailey that said something must be done about VLTs.
“The Missouri Gaming Commission has fielded complaints from players who claim the host businesses of the unlicensed machines have refused to honor winnings as high as $3,000. There have also been reports of children using the machines.”