Unregulated Missouri Gambling Machines Trial Delayed To October

Written By Sam Hollingsworth on August 21, 2023
Trial on legality of VLTs delayed until October.

The trial that could settle the question of whether unregulated gaming machines at bars and gas stations across Missouri are legal has been delayed until October.

Torch Electronics, owner of most of the machines, along with Warrenton Oil, which hosts machines at its convenience stores, sued the state in 2021 to stop police seizures of the video lottery terminals, or VLTs.

Plaintiffs sought the delay after they claimed defendants “dumped more than 5,000 pages of previously undisclosed documents” into official evidence just 10 days before the trial was to begin.

The trial is now expected to start on Oct. 3.

Torch filed the lawsuit more than two years ago

It is estimated that between 14,000 and 20,000 VLTs are in operation across Missouri. They have become an obstacle to legalizing Missouri sports betting. One lawmaker refuses to allow sports betting legislation to move forward unless VLTs are legalized, regulated and taxed.

In addition to the thousands of pages of new documents, Torch attorney Chuck Hatfield also claims that defendants Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Department of Public Safety have submitted a new report on the legality of Torch’s machines and named four expert witnesses.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Hatfield wrote in his request that his team needed to digest all the new evidence and prepare for the witnesses.

“There is no reason for defendants not to have made these disclosures months ago. These belated disclosures are inexplicable and indefensible.”

The lawsuit was originally filed in February 2021. Four months ago, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey withdrew from the suit because of a conflict of interest. His campaign had accepted money from a PAC connected to a Torch lobbyist.

The state then hired Jefferson City attorney Scott Pool to oversee the case. He argued last week that the documents were identical to documents submitted earlier and asked the judge to reject the request for a delay. Attorney Marc Ellinger, who represents the Missouri Gaming Commission, said the case has dragged on too long.

Cole County Judge Daniel Green agreed but approved the delay anyway.

“I kind of agree with Mr. Ellinger. It needs to be done.”

Lawsuit should determine if VLTs are legal or not in Missouri

Torch has been placing hundreds of Missouri VLTs across the state since 2018 without much issue. The machines are considered “gray machines” since they are unregulated and untaxed. The outcome of the trial should determine their legality.

While Torch pursues this lawsuit, it is facing two federal lawsuits, one that is seeking class-action status.

The first federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of people who claim they lost money on the machines or were not paid winnings. Torch is accused of running an illegal gambling operation with store owners.

The other federal suit is from a firm that operates coin-operated gaming machines and claims Torch’s illegal machines have cut into its profits.

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