MGM Grand Fights for ‘Virtual Pitchers’

     DETROIT (CN) – Michigan’s ban against alcohol dispensing vending machines should not implicate tabletop beer taps known as “virtual pitchers,” the MGM Grand says in federal court.
     MGM Grand Detroit says that it “desires to utilize a beer dispensing device at a patron’s table which would allow a patron or employee to pour a pre-determined amount of beer (32 ounces in this instance) from a metered beer tap which would automatically cease functioning after the pre-determined amount has been dispensed.”
     “Under the plaintiff MGM’s proposed use of the Virtual Pitcher, a patron will not and cannot have the ability to turn on the Virtual Pitcher, and only an employee (the bar manager in this instance), will have the ability to turn on the Virtual Pitcher once the bar staff has performed their duties as is required for the service of alcohol in any MLCC-licensed establishment (primarily verification of age and observation for signs of visible intoxication to prevent over-service),” according to the complaint.
     The casino says it sent two letters to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, asking for a ruling on whether the pitchers would violate a state “prohibition against the dispersing of alcohol through a ‘vending machine.'”
     Enforcement Director Tom Hagan did not give the casino its desired response, however, saying the pitcher would be considered a vending machine, according to the complaint.
     The MGM Grand says that the administrative rules on vending machines are vague.
     “MLCC Enforcement Division Director Tom Hagan’s definition of ‘vending machine’ as including the Virtual Pitcher defies all conventional definitions of ‘vending machine’ currently utilized under Michigan law, dictionaries or otherwise as commonly used in the English language,”
     As quoted in the complaint, the MLCC’s rule states that “a licensee shall not allow, on the licensed premises, any vending machine, whether or not operated by coin or currency, that disperses a type of alcoholic liquor directly to a customer. This subrule does not apply to a dispensing machine, which is commonly known as an ‘in-room bar device,’ whether or not operated by coin or currency, and which is located in the bedrooms or suites of licensed hotels.”
     Claiming that the commission has violated its equal protection rights, the MGM Grand seeks monetary damages, an injunction and a declaratory judgment that the Virtual Pitcher is not a vending machine.
     The casino is represented by Seth Tompkins of Sullivan, Ward, Asher and Patton of Southfield, Mich.

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