Utah Raids Shut Down Hundreds of “Slots,” But Makers Say They’re Legal

Posted on: March 6, 2017, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: March 6, 2017, 04:29h.

A slot machine sting in Utah, the joint-“driest” state in America when it comes to gambling, has resulted in the impounding of more than 500 machines in gas stations, small markets, ethnic markets and restaurants across the state.

Senator Curt Bramble helped ignite Utah slots machine investigation
Utah State Senator Curt Bramble was one of three lawmakers who demanded an investigation into the machines having been approached by concerned members of the public. (Image: Stacie Scott, Deseret News)

Authorities said that, over the past year, $12 million to $24 million had flowed through the machines, installed at some 130 businesses throughout Utah. The raids began on Wednesday and are said to be “ongoing.” While no arrests have been made, Leo Lucey, Attorney General’s Office Chief Criminal Investigator, said in an official statement Thursday that the operators of the machines could face “multiple felony charges.”

“The Attorney General’s Office has focused its operation today on a large number of gambling devices that we allege are illegal under Utah statute,” said Lucey. “Because these devices are out in the open and are available to anyone, they present an especially dangerous threat to youth.”

Blanket Prohibition

Lucey said that the investigation, which included local, state, and federal law enforcement, had been launched over the summer after requests from three state representatives, who had in turn been approached by concerned members of the public.

Utah is the only state in the US, except Hawaii, that prohibits gambling in all its forms, even lotteries and, yes, raffles. Even the act of gambling is considered a class B misdemeanor, rising to a class A if you’re caught twice.

Jason Chaffetz, US representative for Utah’s third congressional district, meanwhile, has been one of the most outspoken supporters in Washington of the movement to ban online gambling at a federal level over the past few years.  

Gumball Rally

But the company that makes and distributes the machines, Intermountain Vending, said last week the AG’s actions were “disappointing and regrettable” and it believed it was operating within the confines of Utah law, despite its draconian prohibition of all games of chance.

The company says the machines have a “no purchase necessary” option, while some of them give out gumballs whenever a quarter is added, in addition to the possibility of winning money.

“Our kiosks’ function has been thoroughly tested and we believe they meet all the requirements of Utah law,” said the company in an official statement, Thursday. “Now, instead of having a reasonable dialogue and working to resolve any perceived issues, Intermountain Vending will be forced into the unnecessary expense and inconvenience of dealing with this through the courts.

“Meanwhile, our merchant-customers will lose the benefits of increased foot traffic and retail sales which we provide them and their customers are denied the opportunity to purchase our products and enjoy the entertaining features of our kiosks.”

According to Lucey, users of the machines either directly insert cash or “value cards” purchased from a store clerk, and he begs to differ on the legal loophole.

“In the end, they are paid out in cash,” he said.