Are Vending Poker Machines Legal in Wisconsin?


Wisconsin judge recently issued a ruling that video poker machines were illegal. But Jeremy Hahn, the operator of several machines throughout Wisconsin, disagrees and plans on appealing. His attorneys assert that their machines do not constitute gambling because they offer credits which can be redeemed for free phone charging time should customers win games.

Since 1917, Wisconsin law has prohibited gaming that does not take place on tribal lands and involves pari-mutuel betting. Although Wisconsin boasts several tribal casinos as well as charitable bingo games and raffles as well as a state lottery; video poker machines still aren’t legal outside tribal casinos unless via one person-created loopholes; one such individual was recently successful in opening one such loophole and making legal operation of video poker machines in Wisconsin possible.

Legal action against video poker machines is still underway; in the meantime, state inspectors have been visiting businesses with these machines in place in order to check for violations of law. Businesses providing video poker machines without possessing a class B liquor license face fines and penalties such as seizure of equipment and forfeiture of winnings – potentially significant.

Video gambling machines are defined under state law as any video gaming machines which involve “video poker, video card games, bingo games, craps games, keno games, lotto games, eight liner games or Pot-Of-Gold games that utilize random or chance to match various pictures, words, numbers or symbols without depending on skill or dexterity.” But Hahn’s attorneys contend his machines don’t qualify because they only pay out credit vouchers and their customers can buy multiple vouchers simultaneously; furthermore they claim the company has never refused players their winnings in exchange for money winnings.

Some patrons attempt to cheat the machines through various means, such as using tools to pry open and take money out of the currency area of the machine, manipulating its controls or pressing buttons, and in one instance two men from Caledonia managed to fool it into giving them credits even though they hadn’t put in any money themselves.

The South Carolina Supreme Court recently upheld an uncertain video poker machine law, though its implications are still hazy. Judges continue to issue inconsistent rulings and these machines remain a hotbed of litigation. If you have been charged with possessing gambling devices, Grieve Law’s experienced attorneys can help defend or reduce charges against you – contact us for a consultation now.

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