USA: Appeals court rules against Torch Electronics and Missouri Gaming Commission

An appeals court refuses to declare whether or not the video gaming machines that have proliferated in gas stations and bars across Missouri in recent years are illegal gambling devices or not gambling devices and therefore legal. The Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District on May 28 affirmed a trial court’s dismissal of several claims and counterclaims related to a Missouri Highway Patrol seizure of the devices.

Torch Electronics operates and licenses electronic gaming devices and placed its machines in convenience stores owned by Warrenton Oil Company. The Missouri Highway Patrol seized the devices, deeming them illegal “gambling devices.” Torch and Warrenton Oil sued the Highway Patrol and the Department of Public Safety (DPS) seeking a declaration that the devices are not “gambling devices” as defined in section 572.010, RSMo, as well as an injunction preventing the Highway Patrol from seizing them as such. The Missouri Gaming Association filed a counterclaim against Torch and Warrenton Oil, seeking a declaration that the devices are illegal and an injunction prohibiting the two entities from operating them. Torch and Warrenton then moved to dismiss the Gaming Association’s counterclaim, while the Highway Patrol and DPS moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s amended petition. The Cole County Circuit Court dismissed all claims with prejudice, and the plaintiffs and the Gaming Association appealed.

A unanimous three-member panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District on May 28 affirmed the trial court dismissals “on the grounds that the parties sought declaratory judgments and injunctive relief relating to a criminal law, Missouri courts do not provide equitable relief relating to a criminal statute absent a challenge to the statute’s constitutionality or validity, and no such challenge was raised by the parties,” according to the opinion written by Judge Edward R. Ardini Jr.


Appeals court rules against Torch Electronics and Missouri Gaming Commission