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Springfield City Council votes to ban video lottery terminals

Beginning October 2, 2023, Springfield City Council and the Springfield Planning & Zoning Commission will meet at the Springfield Police-Fire Training Center, 2620 W. Battlefield.
Courtesy City of Springfield
Beginning October 2, 2023, Springfield City Council and the Springfield Planning & Zoning Commission will meet at the Springfield Police-Fire Training Center, 2620 W. Battlefield.

Technically, they’re not considered a form of gambling regulated under state law.

Council members’ vote to ban video lottery terminals — dubbed "monetary prize" devices in the language of the new ordinance — was unanimous: 9 to zero.

Springfield officials say it’s likely the first time a Missouri city has voted to ban the operation of video lottery terminals, also known as VLTs or gaming machines. Technically, they’re not considered a form of gambling regulated under state law.

Zone 1 Councilwoman Monica Horton represents northwest Springfield. She co-sponsored the VLT ban with Mayor Pro Tem Matt Simpson.

At Monday night's meeting, Horton said, “I could not continue to accept ‘we can’t do anything about VLTs’ as an answer. But for a time I did concede my position when the state legislature wouldn’t do anything, when local government bodies did not want to prosecute or regulate. And all the while neighborhoods in Zone 1 were being overrun.”

Springfield police data show that VLTs started showing up in Springfield gas stations and shopping centers about a decade ago, with a rapid buildup in the past few years. Over that time, some 2,000 calls to 911 have been associated with their locations.

At Council’s last meeting on Jan. 22, local residents spoke out on the issue. Most said they wanted a ban. At that meeting, barbershop owner Joe Cooper said, “Right next door to my shop is a gaming place, and there’s prostitution, and there’s needles out in the parking lot every day, and every night there’s somebody sleeping on our sidewalk.”

Before casting their votes Monday night, Council members closely questioned Chris Hoeman, a lawyer in the city attorney’s office who drafted the bill. Council members said they wanted to ensure their VLT ban wouldn’t put companies like Incredible Pizza or Contender Esports out of business. Hoeman told them it wouldn’t.

They also asked when enforcement begins. Hoeman said the "police department will be in the establishments where we know these types of devices are operating currently. They’ll be in tomorrow [Tuesday, Feb. 13] with a copy of the ordinance explaining to people that it passed, and then I think back Wednesday to ensure that those have been shut down.”

Copyright 2024 KSMU. To see more, visit KSMU.

Gregory Holman