Missouri Lawsuit Targets Unregulated Video Gaming Terminals

Written By Nicholaus Garcia on March 14, 2023
vgts truck stops missouri gambling slots

A class action lawsuit seeking to bring charges of illegal Missouri gambling against several parties involved with lottery machines outlines an alleged corruption scheme. 

Filed on March 3 on behalf of seven Missourians, the complaint claims the plaintiffs have played a specific brand of lottery machines on several occasions and lost money from them.

Lawsuit targets unregulated Missouri gambling machines

The case involves:

  • Torch Electronics, a company that owns and operates slot machines across the state of Missouri, and its owner Steven Miltenberger
  • Warrenton Oil Company, which owns gas and convenience stores across the state which, often houses the machines
  • Mohammed Almuttan, a St. Louis-area convenience store owner-turned-informant, and his brother Rami Almuttan

The suit alleges:

“An enterprise promoting and engaging in illegal gambling exists among Torch and Miltenberger and the owners of the convenience stores, gas stations, bars, restaurants, and other places of public accommodation where Torch’s slot machines are installed and operated in the State of Missouri.”

The lottery machines, or “gray machines,” have no regulations surrounding them. 

For years, lawmakers have tried and failed to pass Missouri sports betting legislation. However, one senator has tried to expand gambling in Missouri by tying together video gaming terminals (VGTs) and sports betting. 

VGTs are almost identical to the unregulated lottery machines currently populating Missouri. Upwards of 20,000 slot-like gambling machines currently operate in bars and truck stops around Missouri.

According to the Springfield News-Leader, Sen. Denny Hoskins, a Warrensburg Republican, argues the legalization of VLTs would bring in even more revenue.

In December, revenue from VGTs in Illinois stood at $233.6 million, up 3.9% from November. The state collected $67.7 million in tax revenue in December and $796.1 million for the calendar year.  

Sports betting and VGTs two separate issues

In February, the Missouri Senate clarified that sports betting and VGTs were separate issues. 

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 11-1 “do pass” on SB30, the standalone Missouri sports betting legislation sponsored by Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer.

However, regarding Hoskins’ bill, SB1, lawmakers voted 2-10 against it. SB1 would have married VLT regulation and sports betting legalization together.

 Speaking with PlayUSAPenn Entertainment vice president Jeff Morris said:

“We appreciate the hard work of the Appropriations Committee to pass sports betting, which is a crucial step towards putting Missouri on a level playing field with their neighboring states. They also sent a clear message that aligns with the overwhelming majority of Missourians who want to keep video lottery slot machines off of every street corner in the state.”

Unsurprisingly, many casino operators oppose the legalization of VGTs, with many viewing them as competition to traditional casino slot machines. 

The lawsuit will likely attract more attention in the coming months. The Missouri legislature returns on Monday, March 20, with the annual legislative session ending in early May.

Photo by PlayUSA
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Nicholaus Garcia

Nick Garcia is a senior reporter for PlayUSA. Garcia provides analysis and in-depth coverage of the gambling industry with a key focus on online casinos, sports betting and financial markets. Garcia has been covering the US gambling market since 2017. He attended Texas Tech University as an undergrad and received a Master of Arts in Journalism from Columbia College Chicago.

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