SCOWIS rules phone charging kiosks are illegal gambling

MADISON — A unanimous Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday ruled that cellphone-charging kiosks that allow users to win or lose money by playing a video game are illegal gambling machines.

The court upheld rulings from Milwaukee County Circuit Court and the state appeals court that also determined the kiosks, known as “Pow’r Up” machines, to be illegal.

Quick Charge Kiosk, owned by Jeremy Hahn, operates the kiosks in convenience stores and gas stations throughout the state. The kiosk gives the customer credits to play a video game while their phone is charging. Customers can redeem a ticket, if they win, at the store where the kiosk is located.

Soon after the kiosks debuted, the Wisconsin attorney general said in 2015 that they were illegal gambling machines and several were seized. Quick Charge sued, arguing that the machines were allowed under state law. They argued, in part, that they don't constitute gambling machines because a free play option is available.

“Free play option or not, Quick Charge's argument does not overcome the reality that its kiosks can be used as gambling machines,” Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote. “Simply because a kiosk has uses other than illegal gambling does not negate that reality.”