JEFFERSON CITY, MO. (AP) — A group that represents Missouri‘s 13 casinos is calling for state and local health departments to shut down the roughly 14,000 unregulated electronic slot machines that can be found in many gas stations, bars and clubs because it says they are a health hazard during the coronavirus crisis.
The Missouri Gaming Association has opposed the unregulated games for some time, saying they eat into casinos’ profits, some of which goes toward funding Missouri schools.
The state’s regulatory body, the Missouri Gaming Commission, considers the machines to be illegal, though the Legislature is still debating whether to crack down on them and many prosecutors have been reluctant to press charges against out-of-casino game operators, saying they were waiting to see how a Platte County case plays out, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
As part of the efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the governor last week ordered Missouri casinos to close until at least March 30.
Mike Winter, executive director of the casino association, said in a statement that the unregulated games should be shut down because of their “questionable” cleanliness.
“Often lined up one right next to the other in gas stations and other establishments, the cleanliness of these illegal and unregulated slot machines is questionable. We believe the state should shut down these illegal slot machines, for the safety of our residents,” he said.
According to a study released by the National Institutes of Health, the virus can stay on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for up to two to three days.
Gregg Keller, a state Republican Party official who is also a spokesman for one of the state’s largest out-of-casino game operators, said the unregulated machines are legal and have not been targeted by the state, “so naturally they (can) continue to be enjoyed by Missourians” during the coronavirus outbreak.