TRUK STATE COURT
Cite as In the matter of Slot Machine,
3 FSM Intrm. 498 (Truk S. Ct. Tr. 1988)
IN THE MATTER OF
TSC-CIVIL NO. 86-88, 87-88, 88-88
89-88, and 91-88
Before Keske S. Marar
Truk State Court
July 5, 1988
For the defendant: Maketo Robert
Post Office Box 979
Kolonia, Pohnpei 96941
For the plaintiff: Jeanne Rayphand
Acting Attorney General
Post Office Box 693
Moen, Truk 96942
Criminal Law and Procedure - Search and Seizure
Poker machines are not included within the term "slot machines" under Truk State law and a search warrant authorizing the seizure of slot machines does not permit the seizure of poker machines. In re Slot Machines, 3 FSM Intrm. 498, 500 (Truk S. Ct. Tr. 1988).
Courts should not broaden statutes beyond the meaning of the law as written, even if it means that gambling devices just as harmful socially as slot machines, such as poker machines, will be excluded from statutory prohibition of slot machines. In re Slot Machines, 3 FSM Intrm. 498, 500-01 (Truk S. Ct. Tr. 1988).
Poker machines involve the use of some skill, and are not based simply upon mere chance, therefore are not "slot machines," and are not subject to current Truk State legislative prohibition, specifically Truk District Law No. 25-3. In re Slot Machines, 3 FSM Intrm. 498, 502 (Truk S. Ct. Tr. 1988).
* * * *
KESKE S. MARAR, Associate Justice:
On June 10, 1988 this court was presented not with an application for a search warrant to seize poker machines, but with an application for a search warrant to seize slot machines.
I find that the seized poker machines subject to this forfeiture hearing are similar to a slot machine, however they are significantly different in function, operation, construction and fundamentally incomparable in the method of play that poker machines cannot be legally defined as slot machines.
Truk State Laws do not currently prohibit the possession and operation of poker machines but do prohibit the possession of slot machines.
"Slot machine" has been defined as follows: "Within a statute prohibiting operation of slot machines or similar gambling device, an apparatus by which a person depositing money therein may, by chance, get directly or indirectly money or articles of value worth either more or less than the money deposited." Black's Law Dictionary 1560 (4th ed. 1968) (emphasis added; citations omitted).
The operative word in defining a slot machine that must be addressed by this court is the word chance. That is to say the element of chance must be determined in order to define whether or not a gambling device should be legally classified as a slot machine.
Prior to Truk District Law No. 25-3 which prohibits slot machines, the district governments of the TTPI including Truk, received an Ad Hoc Committee Report to the High Commissioner, Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands entitled "Gambling in Micronesia," published in March 24, 1975 at Saipan, Mariana Islands Office of the High Commissioner. (Hereinafter the "Report"). This court takes judicial notice of this Report.
This Report, at page 4, utilized a 1972 Encyclopedia Britannica definition of slot machines:
Coin operator gambling devices called "one armed bandits" by slang designation which accepts a coin (usually five cents to a dollar) and automatically pays if after three wheels have been spun atrandom. The highest prize, called the jackpot,may be 100 to 200 times the amount at stake. Such machines may be adjusted to retain a desiredprofit for the proprietor. (Emphasis added).
This definition of a slot machine relies upon the element of chance, but not skill to effect the manner and result of its operation.
This Report further defined a slot machine as a "mechanical and uniquely impersonal gambling device which although providing a fascination experience, nonetheless denies the player of any opportunity for exercising his skills to affect the odds and thereby have the chance to gain the healthy satisfaction of self-determined achievements."
This court recognizes that there is, without a doubt, an element of chance involved in the operation of both slot and poker machines. However the fundamental difference between a slot machine and a poker machine is that a poker machine, as opposed to a slot machine, allows the user to exercise his skill to affect the odds and thereby the manner and result of its operation.
In a poker machine, after the "cards" are electronically "dealt" the player may utilize his skill to determine which cards to "hold" and which cards to "discard." The skill involved in both holding cards and discarding cards can affect the odds and therefore the final result.
There is an element of skill involved in the manner of play and resultant operation of a poker machine that is not present in the operation of a slot machine.
It is clear that the element of chance versus skill and the manner and result of a machine operation must be utilized in defining whether or not a so-called gambling device should be classified as slot machine.
"It is also generally held, that the name given a machine does not determine whether it comes under the statutory classification of a slot machine, but that is determinated by the manner and result of its operation." Mackey v. State, 83 P.2d 611 (Okla. Ct. App) (emphasis added).
If the government desired to seize poker machines why did they not so state in their application for a search warrant?
The inherent and statutory powers of the court prohibit a judge from speculation "as to the probable intent of the legislature apart from the words" (of a statute). Truk v. Robi, 3 FSM Intrm. 556, 562 (Truk S. Ct. App. 1988), citing Tinkle v. State, 328 S.W. 2d 111.
This court cannot impute a broader intent of the slot machine law to encompass a meaning other than supported by the law as written. "No intent may be imputed to the legislature in the enactment of a law other than such as is supported by the face of the law itself." Robi, 3 FSM Intrm. at 562, citing Denn v. Reid, 35 U.S. 524, 9 L. Ed. 519.
In denying the prosecutor's request for forfeiture and for providing for release of the poker machines this court wishes to make clear that the release of the poker machines does not constitute judicial approval, only compliance with the law.
In no field of reprehensible endeavor has the ingenuity of man been more exerted than in the invention of devices to comply with the letter, but to do violence to the spirit and thwart the beneficent objects and purposes, of the laws designed to suppress the vice of gambling.
Mackay v. State, 83 P.2d 611, 616, citing City of Moberly v. Destein, 155 S.W. 842, 844.
This court recognizes that there is no traditional view of gambling in Micronesian culture, at least to the extent as presented by slot machines or poker machines. Gambling for entertainment was brought in by non-indigenous people.
However, I note it is not foreigners which are corrupting our people with the introduction of gambling devices on this island. It is sad to realize it is our own Trukese citizens who are attempting to introduce gambling in Truk State.
Micronesians' cash income is relatively small compared to the monetary consumption of slot and poker machines.
A large portion of our citizens have not acquired sound money management principles having been used to a traditional "subsistence" economy.
For these reasons Micronesians are at great risk of being financially damaged by the playing of slot and poker machines.
The current and potential socioeconomic impact to the gambler, family, clan and community resulting from the abuse of gambling is extremely destructive and can only cause further disintegration of Micronesian culture.
In taking judicial notice of the study involved in compiling the Report, I find the following to be of considerable interest:
Typical Micronesians with regular access to cash would appear to be particularly vulnerable to mechanical gambling devices such as slot machines for several reasons. First of all, the machines were designed to appeal to less sophisticated groups. The machines are usually placed in areas where alcoholic beverages are available. Thus, the likelihood of reduced inhibitions to taking a chance is increased. It is known that alcohol abuse is a major social problem in the Trust Territory. Not the slot machine, but the problem of alcohol abuse itself can also be aggravated by losses to slot machines. With slot machines normally spaced close together, players are regularly reinforced to continue play when a winning
bell on some machine urges them on with promises of good fortune at any moment. The fact that most Micronesians could not be expected to understand the betting odds built in to the machines places them at social disadvantage.
Report, Gambling in Micronesia, supra, at 29.
This court recognizes the potential of poker machines to be destructive to Micronesian culture, however the only gambling devices subject to current legislative prohibition are classified as slot machines, and not as poker machines.
While the court is very sympathetic with the intent of the Government to control the evil practice however, the court shall not include the machines into the proscription of the statute something which the Legislature intended to exclude.
The machines subject to this forfeiture hearing are currently not subject to legislative control.
Accordingly this court ORDERS all of the seized machines and their monetary contents to be immediately released into the custody of their owners.