American Gaming Association issues white paper calling for removal of illegal gaming machines Rege Behe, CDC Gaming Reports · April 20, 2021 at 8:14 am Gaming machines can be found in bars, gas stations, small convenience stores, and bodegas. They have names like “Just 4 the Fun of It,” “Video Redemption” and “Cherry Master.” And in most cases, they are all illegal. According to a white paper released Monday by the American Gaming Association, the use of illegal gaming machines has expanded in the United States. “Unfortunately, there’s been a rapid increase of unregulated gaming machines that exist in the shadows, taking advantage of loopholes and flouting the law, with little to no oversight,” AGA Vice President of Government Relations and Gaming Policy Counsel Jessica Feil said in a statement. The machines are cited as fueling gambling and crime in communities. But they also steal tax revenue from states with legalized gambling. According to the white paper, gaming operations are “substantial economic engines” in the 44 states where gambling is legal. The AGA estimates that legal gaming generates $261 billion in economic impact, $41 billion in direct tax revenue, and creates 1.8 million jobs. According to Feil, because illegal gambling machines aren’t regulated, there’s no way to definitively count them. But estimates from analysts familiar with the problem put the number in the tens of thousands in some states. “Because they exist on fringes, even when these machines are rooted out in one locale, they will simply pop up in another,” Feil said via email. Feil added that the proliferation of illegal gaming machines presents challenges in states including Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Kansas. But there is hope; Feil cited Virginia, which has pending legislation slated to go into effect on July 1 to outlaw these machines in the commonwealth. The illegal machines “ultimately endanger consumers and communities, fueling problem gambling and crime while drawing important tax revenue away from states,” Feil said. Because illegal gaming machines do not adhere to state regulations, they are not subjected to regular testing that ensures fair play. Because they are in public places, children may have access to them, and illegal machines are often linked to criminal activity, including money laundering, drug trafficking, and violent crime. “History has taught us that unregulated gambling gives rise to an array of legal and social concerns and ultimately erodes public confidence in the safety and integrity of the whole gaming industry,” Arizona Attorney General and former Director of the Arizona Department of Gaming Mark Brnovich said in a statement. The COVID-19 pandemic increased the use of illegal gaming machines. While most brick-and-mortar casinos were shuttered because of public health mandates, illegal machines were available at public places that remained open, increasing health risks. The white paper recommends the following steps to curb the proliferation of illegal gaming machines: Robust law enforcement to “root out” illegal and unregulated gaming machines. States and communities continuing to ban illegal games. Removal of illegal and unregulated games from businesses. Feil admits that unregulated gaming machines present a complicated problem for law enforcement. They can be hidden from view in back rooms, and also operated in the open at convenience stores and other public venues. According to Feil, law enforcement agencies and policymakers often consider the gambling that occurs by way of illegal gaming machines as a victimless crime. Overlooked are the lack of regulatory protections and a disregard for responsible gaming procedures. “We also know they are often the face of other illegal activity, such as drug or weapons trafficking or money laundering,” Feil said. “While we understand law enforcement must prioritize their efforts and resources, rooting out these machines should be part of the broader strategy to protect our communities.” Rege Behe is lead contributor to CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Please follow @RegeBehe_exPTR on Twitter.