Ruling sought in gambling machines

LINCOLN, Neb. -- A Bellevue company has asked a judge to determine whether the controversial Bankshot video games are illegal gambling devices or, as the company maintains, legal games of skill.

The State Patrol confiscated two of the games Sept. 11 from a business in McCook?, Neb., which was cited for possession of illegal gambling devices.

American Amusements, which created the Bankshot machines, filed suit Thursday in Lancaster County District Court, requesting that the patrol and the State Attorney General’s Office be barred from confiscating any other Bankshot machines and that a judge declare that the devices are legal.

John Fox, who created the Bankshot game, said at least three separate tests of the video devices, conducted by firms hired by American Amusement and the state, show that it meets the state’s legal requirements as a game of skill.

Despite that, he said, the machines in McCook? were confiscated. And, according to the lawsuit, a state trooper in the McCook? raid said the 400 other Bankshot machines in Nebraska soon would be picked up.

“These games have been tested more than any other game in the entire history of the state,” Fox said in an interview Friday. “We have seen no report by any credible source that these machines are anything but lawful.”

The question of whether Bankshot games are legal or not has flummoxed state officials for months.

In January, two of the machines were confiscated from Grand Island’s Fonner Park racetrack. But after being tested, they were returned.

State Patrol officials have said that tests by two firms came to two different conclusions about Bankshot’s legal status.

In July, State Patrol Maj. Mark Funkhouser was quoted as saying the patrol was waiting for direction from the Legislature, which is conducting an interim study on the machines.

On July 29, however, the patrol asked American Amusements to provide two Bankshot machines for additional testing, the lawsuit indicated.

The confiscations made last week signal that the state considers that the machines don’t meet legal standards.

Patrol officials did not immediately return phone messages seeking comment Friday.

“It’s still under investigation,” said Leah Bucco-White, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Jon Bruning.

Bankshot is a video game that costs up to $4 to play. A player chooses a puzzle to solve and tries to place a “wild” ball amid a series of spinning or moving balls to create a match. The speed at which the puzzle is solved helps determines how much is won.

Jackpots of up to $17,000 are possible.

Fox, the Bankshot inventor, said he was confounded by the apparent change of heart by the State Patrol recently.

“If they were stymied (about the legality issue) a month ago, how do they become unstymied?” he asked.

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