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Utah lawmakers wave through bill to ban ‘fringe gambling’


The Utah House and Senate have passed a bill to outlaw electronic sweepstakes machines in the state, further tightening its already strict gambling laws.

Senate Bill 214, sponsored by Senator Karen Mayne, amends the definition of gambling in the Code of Utah to include amusement devices that allow customers to enter into a sweepstakes or lottery, and receive any item of value for participating.

These machines, described as “fringe gambling” by Utah lawmakers, are similar to slots in that users have to insert tokens to win a prize. This could be a voucher to be redeemed online, money, gift certificates or store credit – all of which are prohibited by SB214.

Per SB214, players that lose money on these machines would be able to claim twice the sum spent playing them from the device operator. 

The operators, for their first offense, could be found guilty of a Class A misdemeanour under the Utah criminal code, which means a jail sentence of up to 364 days, and a fine of up to $2,500. 

All subsequent offenses would be considered a third degree felony, which could see individuals jailed for as much as five years, and fined $5,000. 

The bill passed the Utah House of Representatives earlier this week, before being ratified by the Senate yesterday (12 March), the final day of the state’s legislative session. It now goes to Governor Gary Herbert to be signed into law.

Should Herbert sign SB214, it will further tighten the majority-Mormon state’s already strict gambling laws. It is one of just two US states, alongside Hawaii, that allows no form of legal gambling, with charitable raffles the only activity approaching a game of chance.