Is it legal to own a slot machine?


Slot machine ownership laws vary from state to state, in general, most of the states allow individual to own a slot machine if the slot machine meets one of the following three kinds,

Antique slot machines:

Slot machines that are at least 25 years old, provided that the seller explicitly states the age of the machine in the document. However, people in the following states may not own an antique slot machine due to laws prohibiting slot machine ownership in these states,

  • Alabama

  • Connecticut

  • Hawaii

  • Indiana

  • Nebraska

  • South Carolina

  • Tennessee
  • A few states require that slot machines be even older to qualify for antique status, but a few allow more recent machines. For example, in Idaho (Idaho Code 18-3810), an antique slot machine is a slot machine manufactured prior to 1950, the operation of which is exclusively mechanical in nature and is not aided in whole or in part by any electronic means.

    It is recommended to check your local state laws regarding individual ownership of slot machines.

    Non-coin-operated slot machines:

    Slot machines that do not accept or pay out coins or currency, however, some slot machines resemble traditional one-armed bandit slot machines, but operate slightly different: players feed paper bill currency into the machines' and push buttons. When a player cashes out, they push a button on the machine and a redeemable receipt emerges, exchangeable for cash.

    slot machines that can be readily converted to use for coins or currency are treated as coin-operated machines and prohibited in the following states,

  • Alabama

  • California

  • Missouri

  • New Jersey

  • New York

  • North Carolina

  • Oregon

  • Non-functional slot machines:

    Slot Machines that were never functional but made solely for display. In addition, coin-operated slot machines that have been permanently altered so that they will not accept any coin or slot and cannot be converted into an operational slot machine of any kind. These machines sometimes being treated as video games.

     


     


    Arizona (ARS 13-3309)

    D. If a gambling device is an antique slot machine and is not used for gambling purposes or in violation of the laws of this state, possession of the antique slot machine is lawful and it shall not be confiscated or destroyed. If the gambling device is confiscated and the owner shows that the gambling device is an antique slot machine and it is not used for gambling purposes or in violation of the laws of this state, the court-acquiring jurisdiction shall order the antique slot machine returned to the person from whom it was confiscated.

    E. For purposes of this section, "antique slot machine" means a gambling device, which is manufactured for use as a slot machine and is at least twenty-five years old.


    Idaho (Idaho Code 18-3810)

    1. Except as otherwise provided in this section, it shall be a misdemeanor and punishable as provided in section 18-3801, Idaho Code, for any person to use, possess, operate, keep, sell, or maintain for use or operation or otherwise, anywhere within the state of Idaho, any slot machine of any sort or kind whatsoever.

    2. The provisions of section 18-3804, Idaho Code, shall not apply to antique slot machines. For the purpose of this section, an antique slot machine is a slot machine manufactured prior to 1950, the operation of which is exclusively mechanical in nature and is not aided in whole or in part by any electronic means.

    3. Antique slot machines may be sold, possessed or located for purposes of display only and not for operation.

    4. An antique slot machine may not be operated for any purpose.


    Iowa (Iowa Code 725.9)

    1. "Antique slot machine" means a slot machine, which is twenty-five years old or older.

    2. "Gambling device" means a device used or adapted or designed to be used for gambling and includes, but is not limited to, roulette wheels, klondike tables, punchboards, faro layouts, keno layouts, numbers tickets, slot machines, pinball machines, push cards, jar tickets and pull-tabs. However, "gambling device" does not include an antique slot machine, antique pinball machine, or any device regularly manufactured and offered for sale and sold as a toy, except that any use of such a toy, antique slot machine or antique pinball machine for gambling purposes constitutes unlawful gambling.


    Michigan (MCL 750.303)

    750.303 Keeping or maintaining gaming room, gaming table, or game of skill or chance for hire, gain, or reward; accessory; applicability of subsection (1) to mechanical amusement device, slot machine, or crane game; "slot machine" and "crane game" defined; notice.

    1. Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person who for hire, gain, or reward, keeps or maintains a gaming room, gaming table, game of skill or chance, or game partly of skill and partly of chance, used for gaming, or who permits a gaming room, or gaming table, or game to be kept, maintained, or played on premises occupied or controlled by the person, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years, or a fine of not more than $1,000.00. A person who aids, assists, or abets in the keeping or maintaining of a gaming room, gaming table, or game, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years, or a fine of not more than $1,000.00.

    2. Subsection (1) does not apply to a mechanical amusement device which may, through the application of an element of skill, reward the player with the right to replay the mechanical amusement device at no additional cost if the mechanical amusement device is not allowed to accumulate more than 15 replays at 1 time; the mechanical amusement device is designed so that accumulated free replays may only be discharged by reactivating the device for 1 additional play for each accumulated free replay; and the mechanical amusement device makes no permanent record, directly or indirectly, of the free replays awarded.

    3. Subsection (1) does not apply to a slot machine if the slot machine is 25 years old or older and is not used for gambling purposes. As used in this section, "slot machine" means a mechanical device, an essential part of which is a drum or reel which bears an insignia and which when operated may deliver, as a result of the application of an element of chance, a token or money or property, or by operation of which a person may become entitled to receive, as a result of the application of an element of chance, a token or money or property.

    [4] According to a product description from PrePaid Plus, Inc., the Lucky Strike device "closely resembles a Las Vegas style casino machine." The Lucky Strike device is the size and shape of a slot machine with a screen that displays a video graphic of three spinning wheels projected as a grid of nine symbols aligned in three horizontal and three vertical rows. When money is inserted in the machine and the "dispense" button is pushed, the wheels spin, the lights blink, and the music plays. Cash prizes are awarded if the symbols are aligned in specific configurations. The combinations are determined randomly by a cartridge in the device. The configuration of the spinning wheels image is printed by an internal printer onto the half of the slip of paper that is the game piece. Winning combinations are noted on the printed game piece. Winners can redeem their game piece for cash from the clerk at the facility where the Lucky Strike device is located.

    [20] According to Nelson Rose, a law professor who studies gambling law, early courts were split on whether the dispensing of mints with every nickel played converted the slot machine into a legitimate vending machine, "until it was pointed out that players continued to put in their nickels long after the mints had run out." I. Nelson Rose, Gambling and the Law 89 (1986). At four of the North Dakota locations with the Lucky Strike devices, personnel reported the phone cards were often discarded. Discarded phone cards were placed in a basket and were available free for the taking. Despite this ready availability of two-minute phone cards, people continued to put their dollars into the Lucky Strike devices. Since phone cards were available free for the taking, it is logical to conclude people paid their dollars for a chance to win cash. The similarity to the gum and mint cases is obvious.

    [21] The Mississippi Court of Appeals recently determined a very similar machine called the Lucky Shamrock was a slot machine. Mississippi Gaming Commission v. Six Electronic Video Gambling Devices, 2001 WL 19737 (Miss. App. Jan 09, 2001). The Lucky Shamrock, for one dollar, dispenses a two-minute emergency long distance calling card and a game piece. Id. The Lucky Shamrock simulates a slot machine, with spinning nine squares, lights and music. Id. Winning game pieces pay one dollar up to five hundred dollars, payable by the clerk at the store. Id. It is illegal to possess a "slot machine" in Mississippi in areas not authorized for casinos. Prohibited by Miss. Code Ann. 97-33-7 is:
    Any slot machine other than an antique coin machine as defined in Section 27-27-12 which delivers, or is so constructed as that by operation thereof it will deliver to the operator thereof anything of value in varying quantities, in addition to the merchandise received, and any slot machine . . . that is constructed in such manner as that slugs, tokens, coins or similar devices are, or may be, used and delivered to the operator thereof in addition to merchandise of any sort contained in such machine, is hereby declared to be a gambling device.

    [22] The Mississippi Court of Appeals concluded " a slot machine that delivers no guaranteed product at all is illegal, and so is one that always delivers specific merchandise and also something else of value in varying quantities. It is the possible prize that makes use of the machine of great interest to a class of customers as well as to the [Mississippi Gaming] Commission." Six Electronic Video Gambling Devices, 2001 WL 19737 (Miss. App. Jan 09, 2001).

    [23] The Court of Appeals of California also determined the VendaTel machine which dispenses with each dollar paid a five-minute phone card and a game piece for a chance to win up to $100, was a slot machine. People ex rel. Lockyer v. Pacific Gaming Technologies, 98 Cal. Rptr.2d 400, 402 (Cal. App. 2 Dist. 2000). California statute makes it illegal to possess a slot machine and California Penal Code 330b(2) defines a slot machine as any device:
    that is adapted, or may readily be converted into one that is adapted, for use in such a way that, as a result of the insertion of any piece of money or coin or other object, or by any other means, such machine or device is caused to operate or may be operated, and by reason of any element of hazard or chance or of other outcome of such operation unpredictable by him, the user may receive or become entitled to receive any piece of money . . .or thing of value . . . which may be exchanged for any money . . . or which may be given in trade, irrespective of whether it may, apart from any element of hazard or chance or unpredictable outcome of such operation, also sell, deliver or present some merchandise, indication of weight, entertainment or other thing of value.

    [24] While Pacific Gaming Technology claimed the VendaTel fit an exception to the statute defining slot machines because it dispensed a five-minute phone card with every dollar inserted, the court responded "[s]ince the machine also dispenses a chance to win the sweepstakes, it gives more than the merchandise -- which means the sum deposited is not the 'exact consideration' for the telephone card." (Citations omitted; emphasis in original.) Pacific Gaming Technologies, 98 Cal. App. 400, 403 (Cal. App. 2 Dist. 2000).

    [25] Midwestern relies on an earlier Mississippi case which held a telephone card with a "scratch-and-win" game piece on one side with a chance to win prizes ranging from $1 to $50,000 was not a lottery. Mississippi Gaming Commission v. Treasured Arts, Inc. 699 So.2d 936, 940 (Miss. 1997). No machine was used to dispense this phone card; therefore the issue was not whether the dispensing machine was a slot machine but rather whether the calling card was a lottery under Mississippi law. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined the Treasured Arts phone card was not a lottery because there was no proof the amount paid for the telephone card was more than the retail price of the telephone time. Id. at 940. In view of the above discussion we find the Mississippi case unpersuasive.

    [26] The Lucky Strike device dispenses a two-minute emergency phone card plus a chance to win up to $500 in cash for every dollar paid. Putting a dollar into a Lucky Strike device is "risking any money, credit, deposit, or other thing of value for gain, contingent, wholly or partially, upon lot, chance, the operation of gambling apparatus, or the happening or outcome of an event, including an election or sporting event, over which the person taking the risk has no control," and therefore, according to N.D.C.C. 12.1-28-01(1), it is gambling.

    [27] Midwestern also argues there is no consideration because there is no purchase necessary to play the game. Upon sending the postage-paid postcard or making a written request to the address on the side of the machine, a person can get one free game piece per request. Because of this availability of free play, Midwestern claims the Lucky Strike game is a promotional sweepstakes, not gambling. Midwestern urges us to conclude there is no basis for finding consideration from a person who pays nothing merely because other people voluntarily pay something. It contends the obvious purpose of the sweepstakes promotion is to increase the sales of phone cards.

    [28] But, the limited availability of free play does not exempt the Lucky Strike game from being defined as gambling. Sweepstakes that are commonplace as marketing promotion tools are significantly different than the Lucky Strike game. The high pay-out rate of the Lucky Strike game is a distinguishing feature because it goes to the true purpose of the game.

    [29] Midwestern offers one free Lucky Strike game piece per mailed request and on this basis claims, because no purchase is necessary, it is as acceptable as a retail promotional sweepstakes. However it does not follow that simply because low-stakes, temporary promotional sweepstakes with pay-out rates of one-half of one percent that offer free play are not pursued as lotteries, we must conclude high-stakes, permanent games with pay-out rates of sixty-five percent are immune from the definition of a lottery because they also offer limited free play. North Dakota has not established, by either legislation or judicial ruling, an exception to the gambling and lottery definitions for promotional sweepstakes. A number of states, rather than finding gambling is acceptable because it has one characteristic of limited free play in common with promotional sweepstakes, have concluded retail promotions violate gambling and lottery statutes despite the availability of limited free play. See Boyd v. Piggly Wiggly Southern, Inc., 155 S.E.2d 630 (Ga. Ct. App. 1967); Kroger Co. v. Cook, 265 N.E.2d 780 (Ohio 1970); State ex rel. Schillberg v. Safeway Stores, Inc., 450 P.2d 949 (Wash. 1969).

    [34] The Lucky Strike device is also a "coin-operated gaming device" as defined by N.D.C.C. 12.1-28-02(4).
    a. As used in subsection 3 but with the exceptions provided by subdivision b of this subsection, the term "coin-operated gaming device" means any machine that is:
    (1) A so-called "slot" machine that operates by means of the insertion of a coin, token, or similar object and which, by application of the element of chance, may deliver, or entitle the person playing or operating the machine to receive cash, premiums, merchandise, or tokens; or
    (2) A machine that is similar to machines described in paragraph 1 and is operated without the insertion of a coin, token, or similar object.
    b. The term "coin-operated gaming device" does not include a bona fide vending or amusement machine in which gambling features are not incorporated as defined in section 53-04-01, or an antique "slot" machine twenty-five years old or older that is collected and possessed by a person as a hobby and is not maintained for the business of gambling.


    New Hampshire(R.S.A. 647:2)

    1. "Antique gambling machine" means any device or equipment at least 25 years old which is in the possession of a collector and which is not maintained or operated for gambling purposes.
    2. "Collector" means a person who for nostalgic reasons, monetary investment, or personal interest acquires antique gambling machines as defined in subparagraph (a) for personal display or retention.
    3. "Redemption slot machine" or "redemption poker machine" means any device or equipment which operates by means of the insertion of a coin or token and which may entitle the person playing or operating the game or machine the opportunity of additional chances or free plays or to receive points or coupons which may be exchanged for merchandise only, excluding cash and alcoholic beverages, provided the value for such points or coupons does not exceed 2 1/2 cents for each credit on the game or machine.

    California

    Current controversy has surrounds the use of gaming devices similar to slot machines in California's tribal casinos. Indian tribes in the state operate an estimated 8,300 gaming devices on their reservation casinos. [40] These devices resemble traditional one-armed bandit slot machines, but operate slightly different: players feed paper bill currency into the machines' and push buttons. When a player cashes out, they push a button on the machine and a redeemable receipt emerges, exchangeable for cash. [41] The games include video poker, video keno, and a variation of a matching game, similar to the typical three-object slot machine. California does not allow banked or percentage card gambling, which falls under Class III. With the uncertain exception of video lottery machines (video keno), slot machines are prohibited under California law. [42]


    Footnotes

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    (http://www.ndcourts.com/court/opinions/20000168.htm)
    (http://www.legis.state.ia.us/IACODE/1999SUPPLEMENT/725/9.html)
    (http://w3.uchastings.edu/plri/spr96tex/calgam.html)
    Idaho (Idaho Code 18-3810)
    18-3810. SLOT MACHINES -- POSSESSION UNLAWFUL -- EXCEPTION.