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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Local gaming investigation continues

Sunday, July 18, 2004

DPA Director Drew Juden, left, and Scott County Prosecutor Paul Boyd look over the inner workings of an illegal gaming machine.
SIKESTON - Missouri Gaming Commission officials have confirmed gaming machines seized by the Sikeston Department of Public Safety are indeed illegal gaming machines.

Following what appeared to be a valid complaint about illegal gambling devices, DPS officials decided to do "a fair sweep" of area businesses. On June 17, approximately 30 Sikeston businesses were contacted by area law enforcement officers regarding the possession of possible illegal gaming devices.

"The mere possession of them is a misdemeanor," said Scott County Prosecutor Paul Boyd, adding the machines are subject to seizure as contraband.

After administrative searches or observing the machines in plain view, a dozen machines were identified as probably being illegal gaming devices and confiscated.

On June 30, investigators from the Missouri Gaming Commission with Sikeston DPS inventoried and inspected the machines.

Boyd said the paperwork is not back yet, but investigators indicated all the confiscated machines, 11 video slots and a quarter slider/pusher, were identified as illegal gaming devices based on their characteristics (see sidebar).

Since the Sikeston sweep, additional information was offered to officials regarding gambling machines elsewhere in Scott County.

Boyd said as word gets out on these illegal machines, he hopes Scott County businesses won't flagrantly ignore the law.

"We're trying to inform the public, tell them what's illegal and what's not to clear up any confusion in the future," he said.

In most cases, local law enforcement personnel are not trained to enforce gambling machine laws, according to DPS Director Drew Juden.

A lot of people, for example, think the machines fall under the jurisdiction of Liquor Control or the Gaming Commission, "but neither has enforcement rights when it comes to illegal gambling machines," Juden said.

"Liquor control can take administrative action against their liquor license," Juden said, but the worst they can do is suspend their liquor license during a busy week.

The Gaming Commission, on the other hand, only deals with licensed facilities and machines.

"They ought to be given the authority for enforcement on any - legal or illegal - gaming machines," Juden said. He suggested some of the money raised by legal gambling enterprises should be used by the gaming commission to hire enforcement officers.

Boyd agreed that enforcement on illegal gambling machines requires local agencies to dedicate already-limited resources "for something the state is not paying us any additional money to enforce," Boyd said.

Probably the most interesting find during a case law study conducted by Boyd is that losers - along with their heirs, executors, administrators, wives and creditors - can sue in civil court for their loses.

Boyd said that while he is committed to upholding the law, there is an element of hypocrisy to the state picking and choosing which games are permitted. "They should make it all legal or make it all illegal," Boyd said.

In many establishments, legal games like keno and pulltabs are offered along with illegal ones.

"It's confusing to the layman and the general public," agreed Juden.

He suggested anyone with questions regarding their machine should contact DPS.

"We'll come in and tell them if it's legal or illegal as long as they understand if it is illegal, we'll dispose of it," Juden said. "It's ours at that point."