Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules ‘Pow’r Up’ Cell Phone Charging Kiosks Are Illegal Gambling Machines

I have never charged my cell phone at a public charging station. I think it’s cool when they are available – there was even one at my nearby urgent care clinic the last time I had to take my kid (he’s fine!) – but I have never needed one. If I did, though, I don’t think I would gamble using the same machine that was juicing my phone. Maybe it’s just me, seems weird. The next time I go to visit my family in Wisconsin, it looks like I won’t even get that chance, as the Wisconsin Supreme Court gave a big thumbs down to gambling on charging stations. I mean, come on, I didn’t even get to try it!

Supreme Court wasn’t swayed

A company called Quick Charge Kiosk, owned by one Jeremy Hahn, supplied “Pow’r Up” kiosks to convenience stores and gas stations throughout America’s Dairyland that allowed people to both give their phones some much needed life and play a video game while waiting.

If the customer wins at the game, they receive a voucher that can be used like cash to buy something in the store.

In 2015, the Wisconsin Attorney General seized several of the Pow’r Up kiosks on the grounds that they were illegal gambling machines. Quick Charge sued, saying they were legal because they had a free-to-play option.

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

Yes, they are slot machines

Three years ago, Milwaukee’s FOX6 news investigated the Pow’r Up kiosks, taking their hidden cameras on the road. They stopped at a couple gas stations to check out the machines, finding that they charge an insane $1 PER MINUTE for phone charging. Even a fast charger isn’t going to accomplish much in a minute.

And really, people are not using the kiosks for cell phone charging. For every $1, you get 100 “entries” to use in the video slot machine. That’s what people use the machines for. The slot machine is supposed to be the bonus, but really, the charging is the bonus.

Welcome to “gasinos.”

One FOX6 producer asked a store clerk what happens when someone wins. Even then, the reward was just straight cash given to the person from the register, not some voucher to spend in the store.

Free play isn’t worth the effort

Even the free play option is effectively a ruse. Apparently, to play for free, one has to fill out a special free entry form. The news producer asked a clerk about it, who didn’t know what she was talking about. Eventually, he found one. It had to filled out and mailed in.

A week later, the producer received a certificate for one free entry. When she tried to redeem it, the store clerk had no idea what to do with it, so he just gave her $1 to use in the machine.

So yes, the Pow’r Up machines are slot machines. They are gambling machines. Not difficult to understand.

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