Companies operating video slot machines in Wyoming bars are challenging the attorney general's opinion that the games constitute illegal gambling

Companies operating video slot machines in Wyoming bars are challenging the attorney general's opinion that the games constitute illegal gambling.

The vendors, Wyoming Skills LLC, argue the games include an element of skill that exempts the games from state gambling laws. After each spin, players have 15 seconds to "nudge" one reel up or down or to "swap" a logo to display a winning combination.

However, Attorney General Peter Michael noted in his Dec. 11 opinion that some spins are predetermined losers and operators keep a percentage of the wagers, so the video machines are illegal gambling.

Michael's opinion, requested by Natrona County District Attorney Michael Blonigen, also notes a 1985 Wyoming Supreme Court ruling that said the "law is not required to be blind to, and ineffectual against, the ceaseless efforts and ingenuity of persons to circumvent the Gambling Device Act."

Playing the games constitutes gambling and those aiding or inducing others to play the game are engaged in professional gambling, Michael wrote.

Wyoming Skills LLC is asking a Natrona County judge for an injunction to prevent law enforcement from acting on Michael's opinion until a court ruling is made, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle report ed. A hearing date has not been set.

Vendors argue the threat of prosecution from Natrona, Platte, Sublette and Campbell counties has effectively shut down the games there, harming businesses. The outgoing Laramie County prosecutor said he'll leave the decision to his successor, but vendors say the sheriff has told them he will seize machines, the newspaper reported.

About 300 machines were in operation around the state.

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Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, http://www.wyomingnews.com

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“Skill game” operators sue Wyo. AG, law enforcement to keep business alive

CHEYENNE – Companies operating bar games that resemble video slot machines are challenging the Wyoming attorney general’s position that they’re enabling illegal gambling.

In a lawsuit filed recently in Natrona County District Court, a group of vendors called Wyoming Skills LLC says special features in their games make winning a question of skill, exempting them from state gambling laws.

The games from North Carolina-based Banilla Corp. mimic casino-style slot machines that are illegal in Wyoming. But the vendors say skill comes in when the tumblers stop spinning and a player has 15 seconds to tap the right tumbler to make icons line up.

Vendors’ attorneys also contend that a “Prize Viewer” feature that shows players the amount they can win on each spin before risking money eliminates any hint of chance or luck that would make the game illegal.

Attorney General Peter Michael wasn’t convinced earlier this month, when he issued an opinion saying the more than 300 machines in Wyoming were illegal because the amount of skill required to put icons in a row is minimal. He also noted that the legal exemption for skill games requires that awards be made only to players, and that since the games are designed to pay out only some of the time, they fail that test.

But the vendors, represented by Cheyenne law firm Woodhouse, Roden and Nethercott, are hoping a judge will see things differently.

They’re also asking for an injunction to prevent law enforcement from acting on Michael’s opinion until an official ruling is made.

Michael’s guidance says playing the games constitutes a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $750 fine, and says “aiding or inducing others” to play the games could be a felony punishable by up to three years in prison and a $3,000 fine.

Vendors say threats of prosecution from Natrona, Platte, Sublette and Campbell counties have effectively shut down games there, causing irreparable harm to their businesses and employees.

(Laramie County District Attorney Jeremiah Sandburg, who leaves office in January, told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle he’ll leave the decision to prosecute to his successor. But vendors say Sheriff Danny Glick told them he would seize machines here and prosecute regardless.)

The lawsuit also argues disabling the machines cuts off key revenue for bars and other establishments that have struggled to cope with the loss of historic horse race machines to facilities dedicated solely to those games.

“Since Wyoming Skills LLC began operating their skill equipment in local bars and establishments, the bars that were barely getting (by) are now flourishing,” the filing reads. “Many of the bar owners will have to close their doors if they suddenly lose this income that they have come to rely on over the past few years.”

A date for a hearing on the matter has not been set.

https://www.wyomingnews.com/news/local_news/skill-game-operators-sue-wyo-ag-law-enforcement-to-keep/article_aa6771e0-0b37-11e9-90f9-df340c65cbbb.html