Missouri is continuing to be plagued by pre-reveal games with a questionable legal status and big companies aren’t taking enough initiative to tip the scales in favor of tighter regulation.
Missouri Laws Unclear, Cause Problems
Phillips 66 – the Texas-headquartered energy provider, is a major fuel supplier in Missouri and Bernardo Fallas – a Phillips 66 spokesperson – has been reported saying in an e-mail that the company does not “condone illegal gambling or any other illegal activities” at its branded stations. Furthermore, Fallas has said that it’s expected of these locations that they “abide by local and state laws.”
This comes in the face of an ongoing plague of gaming machines with a disputed legal status, spreading throughout Missouri at gas stations, restaurants, bars, and even convenience stores. Phillips 66 has issued this statement, clearing up that it does not authorize the installment of illegal machines at locations that carry its brand.
The machines in question are referred to as “pre-reveal” or “no-chance” machines. The way they operate is that they provide the player with knowledge if a bet is winning or losing before it’s been played out. However, in order to place another bet, regardless of the outcome of the first one, the bet needs to be played out. The games feel a lot like slot machine games, but the “pre-reveal” mechanic gives ground to debate whether or not it’s a gambling game. At least that’s what machine manufacturers are betting on and have started spreading like wildfire throughout Missouri, riding the wave of uncertainty.
Phillips 66’s statement doesn’t condone the machines directly, nor does it take a firm stance regarding them. All it says is that it doesn’t sanction illegal gambling at its locations. However, whether or not these “pre-reveal” games are lawful is still an open legal dispute that de facto makes installing them a “grey” area, allowing manufacturers to install or distribute the gambling machines across the entire state of Missouri.
Legal Battle Brewing
The lack of regulatory clarity on these machines is by no coincidence at least partly, if not almost entirely, because of lobbying by manufacturers. One of the most prominent examples is Torch Electronics with its dubious donations. The latest instance was a total of $250,000 in donations to local political action committees (PACs), with each PAC receiving $40,000. All the PACs – Conservative Leaders of Missouri, Missouri Senior PAC, Missouri Growth PAC, MO Majority PAC, Missouri C PAC, and Missouri AG PAC – are associated with Steve Tilley, who is currently a Torch lobbyist and is a former Speaker of the House.
Furthermore, companies from neighboring Arkansas are also jumping in the fray, namely Lone Wolfe Entertainment LLC and PB08 Electronic Ventures Inc. further worsening the spread of the pre-reveal machines.
Other, less savory actions by the business trying to oppose changes in the status quo, including filing lawsuits against state regulatory bodies. In the case of Torch, that’s a lawsuit against the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP), which on its end has been conducting multiple raids, confiscating machines from internet and gas stations, for example, as well as raiding the Springfield Shopping Center, which was now more than a year ago. Joining the lawsuit on the side of Torch, regardless of Phillips 66’s statement, is Warrenton Oil, to which Phillips is a supplier.
As long as Missouri laws stay ambivalent and the legal status of these games is unclear, it’s a safe bet that manufacturers will continue their expansion into the Show-Me State. Without including pre-reveal games into the list of regulated games, gaming revenue will not be used for education or addiction treatment, as is usually the case with taxed gambling, where public information campaigns on problem gambling and helping those affected is par for the course.