State lawmakers in Wisconsin are attempting to shut down machines that allow cell phone users to charge their devices at several gas stations in the state; this is because illegal gaming machines can be disguised as a convenient option for those who catch themselves on the road without a charger. Owners of the machines are crying foul, as they believe the gadgets are legal under the state’s gaming laws as a promotional offer. The fight could also include the state’s Native American tribes who have sole custody of the entire casino industry; the two sides are waiting for a judge’s decision, and the Wisconsin Justice Department has nicknamed the gaming machines at the center of the controversy, “Gasinos”.
Proprietor of “Quick Charge Kiosks” Jeremy Hahn and gas station owners who offer the use of the machines claim they fall within the state’s promotional sweepstakes and contests exemptions. As the promotion is very similar to a slot machine, the state believes the devices do not qualify for the exemption and the machines should be removed from the gas stations. The high cost of charging a device, $1.00 per minute, is yet another clue that the gadget’s main use is for gambling and not for charging. Two professional over-the-road haulers were surprised at the cost for charging a cell phone; “That’s way too much” said Travis and another driver named Billy stated ,”That’s ridiculous!” when asked about the service.
While users of the device pay a premium, each dollar spent charging nets the user 100 “entries” in a “promotional game” that not only offers promotional prizes of up to hundreds of dollars in cash by the station owner but to some¸ but look and play just a bit to similarly to a slot machine; these can only be offered at Native American casinos according to Wisconsin law. When the reporter of a Wisconsin-based news team asked for the free entry that is required to be offered for the promotion to fall under state law, it took a cashier five minutes to find the form; after filling out and mailing in the form, the reporter received a certificate for a free play on the machine. The second visit to the same gas station to use the certificate was made difficult by the fact that a different cashier knew even less than the first about the promotion. The second clerk was finally forced to give the reporter a dollar bill to use in the machine out of the station’s own money.
For years, Wisconsin’s gambling commission and Native American Tribes have ignored illegal gaming in restaurants and bars; both see the machines in establishments that possess a Class B liquor license as a minor nuisance. While overall it is considered illegal to have the gaming devices in these places, it is only a criminal offence that will invoke a penalty if the proprietor of an establishment has more than five in any bar or restaurant that he or she may own. Tribal leaders say this newest intrusion into their business and profits may be the tipping point; Tribal Relations Committee chairman and state representative Jeffery Mursau, R-Crivitz said, “I would say these machines are put in specifically for reasons other than charging your phone”.
Each side can believe what they wish but a judge in Milwaukee will decide at least the temporary fate of the machine’s legality. Both sides believe their definitions of the machines is correct, with Hahn and his lawyers citing Hahn’s father’s case that was found in the senior Hahn’s favor several years ago over poker machines.