Scott G Winterton, Deseret News, File

Utah lawmaker says gas station sweepstakes games often amount to gambling

By Annie Knox, KSL | Updated - Oct 17th, 2018 @ 6:05pm | Posted - Oct 17th, 2018 @ 4:39pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A state lawmaker is again seeking to clarify that sweepstakes games functioning much like slot machines conflict with Utah law against gambling.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said the state code has not kept pace with developments in technology and the Utah Attorney General's Office has asked lawmakers to clear up the ambiguity.

"This bill is designed to beef up our definition of gambling," he said, to stipulate that so-called fringe-gaming devices — which rely on chance and provide tokens or other credits and a potential payout in exchange for cash — are against the law. Such kiosks often are found at gas stations, he said.

The measure cleared an early hurdle Wednesday when the Judiciary Interim Committee voted unanimously to approve it.

Weiler said a woman in North Salt Lake urged him to bring the proposal after her husband blew his paycheck one day at a kiosk and the couple didn't have rent money.

"There’s a very fine line between slot machines and what we have in these kiosks," Weiler said. A version of the measure died after it ran out of time in the final minutes of the 2018 legislative session.

The machines typically allow a person to pay for a card to play and give a receipt at the end that sometimes results in a payout.

They can be programmed in a number of ways, so not every game played on them is unlawful, Weiler noted. And the proposal would not block players from getting tokens in exchange for their contact information and birthday. Amusement park games would be unaffected.

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated a prior incarnation of Sen. Todd Weiler's proposal failed last year. It actually died in 2018.

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