Last October, the Missouri State Highway Patrol testified that the number of complaints it has received about illegal gambling has increased from 39 in 2018 to at least 145 in 2019. Most of those complaints were about alleged illegal slot machines. The terminals can be found in bars, restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores in Missouri.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson speaks to the Capitol Press Corps after being sworn-in as governor on June 1, 2018 in Jefferson City (file photo by Tim Bommel/UPI)

Gov. Mike Parson says the grey area needs to be cleaned up in Missouri’s gambling laws. During a press event in Jefferson City, Parson tells reporters he expects plenty of discussion this session by the state Legislature about the matter.

“You can’t just have people in there setting up slot machines all over the state with no guidance or no supervision,” says Parson.

During legislative hearings held last year about illegal gambling, the Missouri Lottery testified that illegal slot machines are hurting public education in the Show-Me State.

Meanwhile, Webster Groves resident Chris Marshall, who co-owns Llywelyn’s Pub testified in November before the House gaming committee. He said the machines can help managers invest money in restaurant renovations. He cites documents showing the average restaurant in Illinois that has five video game machines can average additional revenue of about $5,000 per month.

Under a proposal this session by State Representative Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, he wants to legalize sports wagering and slot machines. He’s proposing to let truck stops and fraternal organizations operate up to ten video lottery terminals at one location. Bars could operate up to five slot machines at one location.

This week, a Missouri House committee voted in favor of Shaul’s measure, House Bill 2088. It would also allow the gambling activities in “entertainment districts”, like the Power & Light District in Kansas City and Ballpark Village in St. Louis.

Schaul’s proposal is at odds with legislation introduced by Senate leader Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan. Schatz is proposing to increase penalties for what Schatz calls illegal slot machines. At the conclusion of last year’s regular session, Schatz said illegal gaming has exploded across Missouri in record numbers.

“Grey or black market or whatever type of games you want to call, those are everywhere across our state in every district,” Schatz said.

Under Senate Bill 557, a person or business and any affiliated company with a gaming license that is convicted of or pleads guilty to illegal gambling, would be permanently banned from being licensed in video lottery gaming. Any conviction for illegal gambling activity involving an illegal gambling device would result in the automatic and permanent revocation of a license issued under the Liquor Control Law, as well as any lottery game retailer license.

A Senate committee has voted in favor of Schatz’s bill. The measure awaits consideration by the full Senate.

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