News Briefs

Illegal gambling devices to be publicly destroyed in Platte City

By: - October 5, 2021 7:00 am

Two “no-chance” gambling machines await customers in a Columbia convenience store. There have been 26 criminal cases, including seven felony charges, filed over the machines (Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent).

Five video gaming machines declared to be illegal gambling devices in the only successful felony prosecution of a game vendor in Missouri will be destroyed Thursday in Platte City — and the public is invited to watch.

The games, previously owned by Integrity Vending LLC, were seized in October 2018 by the Parkville Police Department at two convenience stores. Integrity Vending was convicted of promoting gambling in September 2020, paid a fine of $7,500 and pulled its other games from other locations in the state.

Under a Missouri law dating to 1951, any device used for illegal gambling is forfeited to the state and “which has no legitimate use shall be ordered publicly destroyed.”

On Aug. 17, Circuit Judge W. Ann Hansbrough ordered the forfeiture and directed that the destruction of the machines would take place at the Platte County Public Works Department location in Platte City. Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd announced Monday that the destruction would take place at 1 p.m. Thursday at the department’s location on Highway 273.

Zahnd could not be reached Monday for information on how the destruction would be accomplished. The public works facility has a large open area and heavy machinery available.

The conviction is the only one for a felony crime among the approximately two dozen criminal cases pending around the state for the video games that have proliferated in convenience stores and other locations in recent years.

The games are called “pre-reveal” or “no chance gaming” because players can view whether they will win or lose if they play the next bet. Promoters of the machine say that feature makes them legal.

The handful of other convictions have been for misdemeanors, such as possession of a gambling device. There have been hundreds of investigations by local law enforcement and the Missouri State Highway Patrol, but The Independent found that many prosecutors are reluctant to file charges and some do not think the games are illegal.

A handful of prosecutors have taken a more aggressive approach – most notably in Linn County, where the prosecutor has filed three felony cases based on investigations by the Brookfield Police Department. 

Other defendants awaiting trial in Linn County include a Columbia company called Capital Vending and Wildwood-based Torch Electronics, which has spent heavily on lobbying efforts and campaign donations seeking to defeat legislation that would make prosecution more certain.

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget and the legislature. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he spent 22 of his 32 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics for the Columbia Daily Tribune, where he won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.