State Treasurer Vivek Malek has reversed course on his office’s decision allowing decals advertising Missouri’s Unclaimed Property division to be placed onto unregulated video slot machines.

Members of a Missouri House subcommittee spent two hours Tuesday grilling Malek over why his office authorized the decals. Malek said the decals were printed and paid for by Torch Electronics, which owns the machines. They contain the official state seal, the Unclaimed Property website, and the phrase “One billion dollars, is any of it yours?”

Fellow Republican Scott Cupps, who chairs the subcommittee, blasted Malek, saying the decals make it appear that the machines are both legal and regulated by the state.

“Boy, it sure is convenient that they give the impression that these machines are not only operated by the state, but that you could win a billion dollars right before everybody gets their tax refund!” Cupps shouted.

Cupps said he encountered a man playing a video machine that had one of the decals, and that the man thought he could actually win $1 billion.

Makek defended the decals, saying they’re spreading the word about the state’s Unclaimed Property division.

“I have spent a lot of time this month promoting the program,” he said. “As of Monday, the State Treasurer’s office is holding nearly $1.5 billion in unclaimed money in more than ten million open accounts.”

Committee member and State Rep. Chantelle Nickson-Clark, D-Florissant, asked Malek about who authorized the placing of decals on the slot machines.

“You gave them permission, or they did it without permission?” Nickson-Clark asked. “We gave them permission,” Malek answered.

When she asked how many decals would have been printed, Malek replied, “However many they want to print to place at their machines.” “On illegal slot machines?” Nickson-Clark shot back. “The gaming machines,” Makek answered.

While Malek defended the deal during the hearing, hours later he revoked permission.

“I reflected on the remarks of lawmakers who commented in good faith,” he said in a written statement. “I have taken full responsibility from the start. I was asked, ‘What’s in it for you?’ My only intent, from the moment I took office, is returning Missourians their unclaimed money. That is what is in it for me. Period. My commitment to that mission is undiminished.”

Malek was appointed State Treasurer by Governor Mike Parson last year after former Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick was elected State Auditor. Malek is running for election this year to keep the job. He’s facing State Representative Cody Smith, State Senator Andrew Koening, and Springfield attorney Lori Rook in the Republican primary this August.

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