Utah Machines to Face Gambling Probe

Machines which can be found inside gas stations and convenience stores in parts of Utah are under investigation for which some feel cross the lines into gambling.

No matter how far back in history you go, establishments have found ways to either circumvent the law, or find loopholes to profit in some form of gambling. The age we live in is no different, and one company in Utah claims it is abiding by every law, while some investigators find their games to be nothing more than thinly veiled gambling.

Intermountain Vending Inc. provides games which are referred to as “gift-card kiosk” which allow players to purchase gift cards, or, if they choose, give them a chance to test their luck in a sweepstakes game. Another game offered accepts coins, while giving the user an opportunity to win coins, $10, $50, or $100 bills. However, the machine also dispenses gumballs, which can be exchanged for coins, leading many, in the end, to consider this gambling.

Stan Graham, general counsel for Intermountain Vending, claims the company is doing nothing wrong or illegal. “In Utah, we have a very specific gambling law, or I guess you could call it an anti-gambling statute,” he said. Graham explains that in Utah, gambling is essentially defined as putting money at risk for a return.

“Insurance is based on chance,” he said. “What the machine vends is gift cards. If you put in $5, you get a gift card worth $5.” The gift cards can then be used to purchase goods from a website, or if the user chooses, enter them in a sweepstakes with cash as a prize.

One store offers six of the vending machines, which many claim play just like a slot machine, by offering buttons to be pressed in an electronic manner. One local convenience store has a “coin-pusher” game, which an employee said after a month of operation, the gumballs were mostly unclaimed.

West Haven’s city code enforcer Larry Horspool passed the information on to the city attorney, who will investigate further.