House committee hears testimony on electronic gambling machines

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri House Special Interim Committee on Gaming heard testimony Thursday from experts, law enforcement and gaming industry leaders about potential legislation on so called "video lottery terminals."

Video Lottery Terminals, or VLTs, are electronic gaming machines that allow users to bet on the outcome of a virtual game. They're commonly found in gas stations and convenience stores.

Speakers and lawmakers discussed whether the machines are considered illegal under current law.

"I have not seen nor are aware of any [machines] that have features that make them legal," said Steve Sokoloff of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol is tasked with investigating potentially illegal machines.

"This year, the division of drug and crime control has opened 92 criminal cases related to the illegal gambling devices," said Lt. Roger Philips of the Missouri State Highway Patrol's Division of Drug and Crime Control. "We have provided 34 probable cause affidavits to prosecutors throughout the state."

Sokoloff said many prosecutors are choosing not to take action against opeartors of potentially illegal machines until a case currently being heard in Platte County is decided.

"Everybody's waiting to see what the outcome of this is," Sokoloff said. "There's lots of other crimes that are out there and I would be foolish to suggest there is adequate personnel to handle everything that comes in the door."