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Judge to decide if Bank Shot game is legal in Nebraska

A judge began hearing a case Monday in a fight over Bank Shot game machines confiscated by the Nebraska State Patrol after they started popping up in bars in the state last year.

In one corner, the makers and distributors of the coin-operated game, intended to replace once-popular Golden Tee machines, say it's a game of skill and therefore legal.

In the other corner, the state of Nebraska says that by state law, it's an illegal gambling device because an element of chance determines the outcome.

In the end, Lancaster County District Judge Steven Burns will decide.

Thomas Culhane, the attorney for American Amusements, which makes the machines, argued in his opening argument that politics played a role in the decision to seize the games.

He described steps American Amusements President John Fox took to make sure the game was legal. He talked to the state patrol and sent a machine to Ohio for independent testing, at the patrol's urging.

Culhane said the machines didn't go out until after a report came back concluding the game was one of skill.

As soon as they did go out, he said, there was an uproar by keno and pickle card operators, who put pressure on the state to put a stop to the games.

In his opening, Mark Laughlin, attorney for the Nebraska Department of Revenue, said it wasn't about politics.

"The way we see it, it's about the game, the results of the game and the standard," he said.

The plaintiffs argued the standard wasn't that the game contained an element of chance or skill, but whether chance or skill determines the result.

The state argued the standard changed with a 1979 amendment that said: "A person engages in gambling if he or she bets something of value upon the outcome of a future event, which outcome is determined by an element of chance ..."

At best for the plaintiffs in this case, "it's a very close call by either standard," Laughlin said.

The trial is expected to go through Thursday.

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