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New bill introduced to address illegal gambling in Utah

Posted at 9:53 PM, Feb 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-27 23:53:20-05

Senate minority leader, Karen Mayne introduced a new bill on fringe gambling today, this comes after a law was passed last year that attorneys say actually opened up more opportunities for illegal gambling, here in Utah.

In 2017 there were more than 400 gambling machines confiscated by the attorney general`s office and now they say, there`s probably more.

Years ago, Layton City Attorney Gary Crane found a gambling operation that was taking in two hundred thousand dollars a month over the Canadian border from about three Layton shops with gambling machines.

The owner of the operation was not paying taxes on the cash and told Crane their operation was being funded from Russia.

“They were fundamentally being financed and sponsored by the Russian mafia and he probably embellished the story somewhat but we do believe that that money was coming to and coming from an organization that was well outside of our American borders,” Crane said.

Since then, gambling machines continue to pop-up all across the state. Gambling is illegal under Utah’s constitution so there are no gambling regulations, like you would find in a las vegas casino - meaning there`s bigger money to be won, not for those gambling, but for those owning the machines.

Aiming to tighten up the loopholes for good, the new bill proposes to:

-define an amusement device and video game

-define vending machines

-define intent of having a gambling machine

-provide a way for those who have been defrauded to make up almost double of what they have lost

“I would hope that this law would impact enough to give local jurisdictions the power to deal with this without having to fund it like a gaming commission or something like that,” James Russell, Utah attorney general supervising special agent said.

The most difficult thing about enforcing the law for city and county officials is those who own the gambling machines are making thousands, sometimes millions and can afford the best lawyers and the best lobbyists in the state.

Unless money laundering or tax evasion is involved, it`s nearly impossible to fund shutting down these operations.