One of the main reasons why so many states have turned to real money gambling is tax revenue. Whether it is the lottery or land-based casinos, the taxes on gaming revenue plug major holes in budgets. Shortfalls in state and local budgets cannot always be passed onto taxpayers.
Gambling, in one form or another, has proven to be a viable alternative.
The state of Missouri is facing a dilemma that could cut into public education funding. The news site www.stlpublicradio.org recently addressed this issue. Look-a-like slot machines are popping up all over Missouri. However, they are making their presence known outside of land casinos in Missouri.
This presence has increased to the point where lawmakers and state regulators have a growing concern. The traditional gambling industry is starting to complain about lost business. Any increased growth could spell more trouble for state gambling revenues. The impact can be expanded to legal bingo halls and legal lottery games along with casinos.
Last year alone, gambling revenues added up to $710 million in local and state taxes. These directly impact yearly budget projections. Most of that money has been earmarked for public schools and state universities.
These alternative slots pay out real money jackpots. Yet, they are not subject to any gambling taxes or licensing fees. They are referred to as gray machines. Many are physically gray in color. They are also gray as far as their regulatory status.
The situation is suddenly pressing for lawmakers in Jefferson City. The hot gambling topic was supposed to legalized sports betting. The attention has now been shifted to these gray slot machines.
State Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial stated that these machines are far more controversial than any other gambling matter. It has moved to the top of the list for the Missouri General Assembly’s 2020 legislative agenda.
The biggest issue is whether or not these machines technically meet the definition of gambling. Rep. Shaul stated, “Right now it’s not clear in Missouri what is and is not legal.” He is the head of the House’s Special Interim Committee on Gambling.
They resemble regular slots with the ability to pay real money winnings. The gray machines do not fall under the supervision of state gambling regulators. Therefore, they can not verify how fair the games actually are. Casino slots are regulated by state regulators.
One company supplying the gray slots is Torch Electronics based in Wildwood. A company spokesperson stated that they should not be regulated. The rational is how they work. They do not meet the technical and legal definition of a gambling device. They also do not present themselves as games of chance.
Gregg Keller spoke on behalf of Torch Electronics. He stated that a player has the chance to find out whether they will win cash. Built in buttons reveal whether or not the next play will be a winning one. This has only heightened the debate over their legality.