Gambling on an Antique Store

Our friend at Motto has a good piece about this story. Apparently some representatives of the Montana Department of Justice, Gambling Control Division, walked into a new Whitefish antique store, seized $77,000.00 worth of antique gambling furniture, and intend to charge the owner with gambling related crimes.

Aside from what was apparently extremely unnecessary and rude behavior, there were many ways this could have been resolved. It would seem that in an area that is apparently not regulated in a very clear fashion, the situation might merit a telephone call and some discussions rather than seizure.

But the story raises the obvious question: What is a gambling device? Well, it is "a mechanical, electromechanical, or electronic device, machine, slot machine, instrument, apparatus, contrivance, scheme, or system used or intended for use in any gambling activity." MCA 23-5-112(12).

Here's where the wicket gets a little stickier. Does the State of Montana have any evidence that the items seized were "used or intended for use in any gambling activity?"

In other words, this fellow probably sells antique guns, too. He can make a legitimate argument that antique guns are not intended to be fired (or used as guns), since to fire the guns could destroy them. Therefore, the fact that an item was originally created for a particular use does not mean that it is traded a hundred years later with an intent that it be used in the original fashion.

The State of Montana has charged or intends to charge the store owner with a crime for possessing these items. Therefore, one can presume that they have some evidence with which to prove the crimes alleged. I will be curious to watch just what evidence the State produces to demonstrate that these items are presently intended for gambling.

And, one might think that an investigator might investigate the allegations before seizing the property. One might also think that a telephone call and a discussion might reveal, quite credibly, that there was no intention to use this property for gambling. Lacking that, there is no gambling device and there is nothing whatsoever illegal.

UPDATE: Editorial here. While I think the writer's museum idea is reasonable, I think it makes more sense logically to start at the beginning. Unless the State can show the requisite intent, there are no gambling devices in the store.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of morons up there.

I'll bet if he had a bunch of guns on display or for sale that they left those alone.

So, are those two cops going to go shake down all the people playing cards at the old folks home because cards are gambling devices?

Seems like they would have better things to do, like look for meth. labs.

Welcome to Montana, please set your watch back 100 years.