JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Committing fraud against a casino with its own gambling chips is not a crime if no bets are placed, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in a 4-3 decision Tuesday. The ruling reverses Eric Winfrey’s guilty plea in St. Charles County Court.
Winfrey, 38, admitted buying $180 worth of chips at Ameristar Casino and then exchanging them with another cashier – his girlfriend – for $595 cash.
The court ruled that buying chips and exchanging them for more than face value does not violate state law governing prohibited acts on a gaming boat because Winfrey did not take something of value from the casino.
“The statute plainly requires proof that a person took money or something of value ‘in’ or ‘from’ the ‘gambling games,’ which (state law) defines as ‘games of skill or chance’ in a casino, not the casino itself,” Judge Richard Teitelman wrote. “As such, the plain language of the statute does not cover conduct that has no connection to any actual gambling game.”
But Judge Mary Rhodes Russell disagreed, writing in dissent, “The plain meaning of the statute’s words encompasses Winfrey’s actions because, although he did not actually engage in a gambling game, the casino chips he used are intended solely for use in gambling games and, therefore, are directly connected to gambling.”
The gambling charges are the least of Winfrey’s worries. His is jailed on unrelated first-degree murder and robbery charges.