A Defeat for Online Gambling in Missouri?

6 October 1998

The lawsuit between the state of Missouri and Interactive Gaming Communications (IGC) finally ended a few weeks ago with a guilty plea by Michael Simone, the company's operator. Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon is pumping his fist to the taste of victory, but how sweet is it?

The well publicized case began in June 1997, by the request of Nixon, when Simone and IGC were indicted on charges of promoting gambling in the first degree. It alleged that the defendants committed a criminal violation of Missouri law by accepting gambling wagers through the Internet from a Missouri resident. On September 22, Simone and IGC plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of promoting gambling in the second degree. As part of the guilty plea, Simone will pay a $2,500 fine to the state of Missouri and IGC will pay a $5000 fine. IGC also agreed to pay $20,000 to the state for the cost of the prosecution.

"These criminal convictions should serve as a clear notice to Internet operators that we will aggressively pursue violations of Missouri law," Nixon said. "Cyberspace is no save haven for lawbreakers… This is an activity that clearly is illegal in the state of Missouri, and I am proud that we have obtained these convictions."

Simone, on the other hand, downplays the guilty plea by calling it a financial decision and referring to it as a "mild victory, at best," for Nixon. "The decision was based on economics and the jurisdictional issues," he said. "It just didn't make sense to fight it. Paying the fines was a lot cheaper than defending this thing."

Simone also believes that the guilty plea doesn't set any precedents and won't hurt Internet gambling because of the nature of the charge. "What did (Nixon) prove?" he asked. "He didn't prove that he could stop (Internet gambling). About 50 others are offering services in his state right now."

Nixon also went after the Coeur d'Alene Indians in Idaho for offering their online lottery to citizens in Missouri. In this case, however, he failed to achieve prosecution.