ALBANY, N.Y. — Differentiating between slot machines and video lottery terminals sounds like a discussion only computer nerds or gamblers could enjoy.
Yet identifying those differences, if any exist, is one of the crucial issues in a challenge to the legality of the state’s plan to set up the gambling terminals, called VLTs, at most horse racing tracks in the state.
The hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues the cash-strapped state has expected to reap from the VLT casinos since the gambling law was approved in October 2001 makes the difference one that all New Yorkers should care about.
To Neil Murray, the issue is simple – slot machines, the classic one-armed bandits that have been the backbone of casinos in Nevada, New Jersey, Connecticut and elsewhere, are indistinguishable from VLTs. To identify differences is a “classic exercise” in semantics, Murray said.
A VLT “is a device that in and of itself is a slot machine,” said Murray, who is representing anti-gambling forces in a legal challenge before a mid-level state appeals courts. “This is a slot machine because it is implemented and operated by inserting something of value and something of value is provided.”
Not so fast, caution the pro-VLT forces, whose case is being argued by state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s office, plus lawyers for the gaming industry and racetrack operators.
VLTs are merely a clever way of dressing up what at its core is a lottery game, the pro-gamblers argue. While statutes in New York explicitly bar slot machines, state-run lottery games have been legal since voters amended the state constitution to allow them in 1966.
VLTs merely provide access to a new lottery game, the devices’ champions say.
Frederick Martin, a lawyer representing Yonkers Raceway, …