Politics & Government

Unlawful gambling machines bite the dust

The giant bucket of a front-end loader fell heavily on a dozen gambling machines Friday, smashing them to bits before a row of television cameras.

Message delivered.

The state won't tolerate illegal devices known as Quarter Sliders and Cherry Masters at businesses around Kansas.

The machines are illegal under Kansas law and are rigged to allow virtually no chance of winning, said Stephen Martino, executive director of the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, the state agency that regulates gambling.

The agency oversaw the machines' demolition at the Waste Connections Transfer Station, 4300 W. 37th St. North.

They had been confiscated from a Johnson County supplier who had placed them in businesses across Kansas, including some in south-central Kansas, Martino said.

The devices often are found in convenience stores, truck stops, Laundromats, bars and taverns, and fraternal organizations, he said.

Quarter Sliders, which have sliding trays of quarters with moving arms that go back and forth, are almost always put in locations where children and young people can play them, Martino said.

"There's nothing fair about these games, and they're really designed only to profit the person who owns them and not the person who's playing them," he said.

Illegal machines are different from slot machines that will be placed in the state-owned casinos that are in various stages of development around Kansas, including Sumner County, Martino said.

Slots in the casinos will be linked to a central computer system and highly regulated, he said.

"When you have illegal devices in convenience stores or truck stops, they're not responsible to anyone other than the person who's placed it there. The slot machines at casinos are going to be heavily scrutinized," Martino said.

"It's a losing bet. They pay out less than they take in. But that's fair," he said.

"These machines are promoted and seen by the public one way, but if you open them up and look at them, they're extremely unfair. There's almost no way you can win."

Businesses that have such devices often aren't aware the machines are illegal, he said.

"They're sold a bill of goods by the supplier. The supplier tells them they're legal machines and they can make a lot of money off them," Martino said.

Most businesses voluntarily turn them in once they know they aren't legal, Martino said. The dozen that were destroyed in Wichita, and 12 more that were destroyed in Topeka later Friday, had been turned in by businesses.

Business owners who learn their machines aren't legal should inform local police, or call the gaming agency at 785-296-5800.

Information on what is and is not legal in gambling in Kansas can be found on the agency's Web site, www.krgc.ks.gov.

If businesses that have the machines don't inform authorities in "a timely manner," the agency can consider taking steps against them, Martino said.

Those steps could include pulling the lottery licenses of convenience stores and truck stops, and taking action against liquor licenses, he said.

The gaming agency has focused on identifying and removing illegal gambling machines since 2008, Martino said.

It has received 500 calls from law enforcement, county attorneys and the public in 58 counties.

"There are perhaps thousands of these machines out there," Martino said.

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