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Judge Rules Missouri Constitution Doesn’t Shield ‘Electronic Raffle’ Company From Gambling Laws

MISSOURI INDEPENDENT (March 25, 2024) – A company that supplies “electronic raffle” games to fraternal and veterans organizations on Friday lost a lawsuit it filed seeking to prove its games do not violate state gambling laws.

Linn County Associate Circuit Judge Tracey Mason-White ruled that Tritium International Consultants, a company based in Florida, could make its arguments in any criminal case that may be filed against it but it didn’t have standing to do so in a civil case.

A finding that a litigant lacks standing to sue is generally enough to dismiss the case, but Mason-White went further in a ruling that found Tritium’s business practices are markedly different from other raffle supply companies.

Tritium filed the lawsuit in 2019 after it was charged with promotion of gambling, a felony. The charges were filed after the Brookfield Police Department seized six of Tritium’s games at the Eagles Lodge in Brookfield.

In the criminal case, and in the civil case filed against then-Linn County Prosecuting Attorney Shiante McMahon, Tritium argued its games were electronic versions of raffles. Under the Missouri Constitution, raffles conducted by charitable or religious organizations are exempt from anti-gambling laws.

Charges were dropped in the criminal case after Linn County elected a new prosecutor in 2022. The newly elected prosecutor, Tracy Carlson, also dropped cases against two companies that provide “pre-reveal” games played in convenience stores and other locations.

The constitutional exemption is for the organization offering the raffle and doesn’t apply to Tritium, Mason-White ruled.

The constitutional exemption is for the organization offering the raffle and doesn’t apply to Tritium, Mason-White ruled.

Tritium isn’t like other raffle supply companies that merely produce tickets to be sold to the general public, Mason-White wrote. Those other supply companies don’t share in the profits of a raffle or have any role after producing the tickets, she wrote.

“Tritium plays a larger role than merely providing the machines at a set fee to the Eagles Club,” Mason-White wrote. “It is responsible for the maintenance and care of the machines and, most notably, shares in a 50/50 split of the profits obtained by participants playing these machines.  The evidence shows that Tritium has received thousands of dollars in profits.”

The ruling is the second to shoot down a lawsuit seeking to block prosecution of the “gray market” games that have flooded the state since 2019. In October, Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green dismissed a lawsuit filed by Torch Electronics, one of the major providers of “pre-reveal” games, that sought to block enforcement actions by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Torch’s games allow a player to see the outcome of the next play to determine if they have won a cash prize. The player must accept that result to continue playing and find out if the next play will be a winner.

Tritium’s games operate by creating a “pool” of raffle tickets when the player starts a game. The winning plays are determined in advance and the player buys one chance at a time and learns whether that play is a winner.

Unlike a standard raffle, where tickets are sold to anyone in the public and there is a fixed date for the drawing, a Tritium game raffle is over when the player ends the game. 

“Tritium’s activity exceeds the mere providing products or equipment to assist the Eagles Club in raising funds under the constitutional protection…” Mason-White wrote.

If the Eagles Club or another organization fears prosecution, they could seek the protection of the courts, Mason-White wrote.

But because Tritium is a for-profit business, the constitutional protections don’t apply. That means it had no right to bring the lawsuit, she wrote.

Every argument made by Tritium should be made in a criminal case if a new one is filed, Mason-White wrote. Declaring a business is legal in a case that does not challenge the constitutionality of a statute isn’t the role of the courts, Mason-White wrote.

“Even if Tritium is found to have standing to bring this declaratory action, the court would find that it fails to show there is an inadequate remedy of law,” the judge wrote.

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