Missouri Gaming Authority Appeals No Chance Gaming Machines Court Decision
The Missouri Gaming Association (MGA) recently gave an update on its legal battle with Torch Electronics, a supplier of so-called “no chance” gaming machines in the state.
The MGA has been trying to legally enforce a shutdown on the developer, which produces slot-style games with a twist it claims keeps them legal.
Torch Electronics’ games have a “pre-reveal” feature that shows the outcome of the next play, allowing players to opt-out if they would lose money. The company argues that since the outcomes are not generated randomly, the games do not violate state law.
The MGA, representing 13 Missouri casino venues, has expressed its intention to appeal a recent decision that dismissed its claims against Torch Electronics.
“The Missouri Gaming Association filed an appeal today because we believe the trial court erred, because we have the right to bring an action to stop illegal competitors. We hope that the decision will be reversed, our case will be tried, and Torch’s illegal competition will be stopped,” read a statement from the MGA.
Torch Electronics and the MGA have been embroiled in a contentious legal dispute, with both parties filing lawsuits and appeals to assert their respective positions.
The high profile argument has even seen criticism of Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who declined to represent the MGA in the case because of an unspecified conflict of interest. The MGA was forced to hire, at some cost, private lawyers to take the case.
Through them, the MGA claims that Torch’s gaming devices, commonly found in various retail locations, are illegal and harmful to its members.
The association is particularly concerned about the spread of these unregulated slot-like gaming terminals, which they argue are detrimental to the state’s gaming industry.
The MGA approached the issue on two fronts. One lawsuit claimed that Torch’s machines aren’t subject to responsible gambling regulations, which could financially harm at-risk players and is unfair to casino operators.
However, in an August 2023 ruling, U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes said that players using the machines could have avoided any loss by “not playing” the machines.
The second lawsuit sought to prove that no-chance gambling does, in fact, constitute illegal gambling, which hurts the businesses the MGA represents. Last week, that case was dismissed by Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green. He said he did not have the judicial authority to decide on the legality of the games.
This suit was closely watched by many in the gambling world as a potential avenue to obtain a definitive answer regarding the games’ legality. However, the dismissal and subsequent appeals continue to leave the issue unresolved.
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Countersuits and Consequences
At the same time, Judge Green also dismissed a claim by Torch Electronics, which requested a judicial intervention to stop Missouri state law enforcement from removing its machines from retail stores, bars, and other venues.
Missouri Department of Public Safety, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and the Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control have all “threatened to remove Torch devices based solely on their own incorrect interpretations of Missouri gambling laws,” the suit said.
However, Green also dismissed that claim on the grounds he did not have the authority to enforce a judgment.
The ongoing legal battle and the presence of these gaming machines have implications for various stakeholders in Missouri. The MGA argues that Torch’s gaming devices divert money away from veterans, local cities, and education through lost tax revenue and admission fees.
Torch, meanwhile, continues to insist their games are legal, and they are facing unfair harassment from the state and competing interests.
“We look forward to our day in court and the determination that these diversion devices are legal,” said Chuck Hatfield, an attorney representing Torch
The appeal by the MGA and the ongoing legal proceedings will likely shape the future regulatory landscape for gaming machines in Missouri. The outcome of these legal battles will likely influence legislative efforts, regulatory approaches, and the operations of casinos and gaming machine manufacturers in the state and across the U.S.