An anti-gambling bill is on its way to the House floor after receiving an 11-1 committee vote.
HB23, aims to put an end to a loophole in Utah gambling laws that has allowed electronic sweepstake machines to continue popping up in convenience stores around the Salt Lake Valley.
The practice, defined by the bill as “fringe gaming,” allows Utahns to buy tokens to a slot machine-like device where they push a button in hopes of winning larger sums in the form of rewards cards.
Assistant Attorney General Steven Wuthrich, who helped draft the bill and was a major player in a previous two-year investigation into the machines, disputes claims that they are “more of a game of chance like in McDonald’s when you pull a coupon and win a discounted happy meal.”
Rather, he said, they are “a functional equivalent to slot machines that you would see in Wendover, [Nev.].”
The bill came to the House Business and Labor Committee upon recommendation from the House Judiciary Interim Committee. HB23’s chief sponsor, Rep. Michael K. McKell, R-Spanish Fork, jokingly said he is carrying the measure because “he drew the short end of the stick.”
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, sponsored the measure last year, when it passed the Senate but died in the House without a vote. This year, Weiler is the bill’s Senate sponsor.