United States v. Korpan

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: Roth's mail-order book business

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 354 US 271 (1957)
ARGUED: Apr 25, 1957
DECIDED: Jun 17, 1957

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Korpan

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 25, 1957 (Part 1) in United States v. Korpan

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 25, 1957 (Part 2) in United States v. Korpan

John F . Davis:

-- upon the user of the machine and that is true, but the rate of $250 is determined by the kind of machine.

Section 4462 (a) (2) refers to so-called slot machines which operate by means of insertion of a coin, token or similar object and machines which by application of the element of chance may deliver or entitle a player -- player to receive cash premiums, merchandize or tokens.

This language does not refer to machines, which may be used so that they entitle a player to receive cash but machines which do entitle a player to receive cash.

Also, if the --

Don't they -- don't the machines do that?

John F . Davis:

They do not, Your Honor.

There's nothing on the machine which indicates that the player is entitled to any cash whatsoever.

The machine merely indicates that he's entitled to some free plays, whether the -- whether the location owner does that or not is a matter for his own -- that's his own performance and not that -- that is indicated by the machine in any way.

Harold Burton:

Justice Goodwill has written on the machine or told the man that --

John F . Davis:

Well, it may be, Your Honor, but we -- it raises some serious problems, I would think, because if a machine has -- one day is a -- a machine that is to be taxed $10 on another day, it's a machine that's to be taxed at $250 depending upon what a particular user does on one day.

I think that that is -- introduces some serious problems in regard to the enforcement of such a statute.

Furthermore, if that were true, any vending machine, a candy vending machine could be made a so-called slot machine merely by removing the candy brand identification labels on the machine because that would introduce the element of chance.

He would then have the requirement of the insertion of a coin, the element of chance because you wouldn't know what type of candy bar you would receive and you would receive it properly, which would then satisfy the interpretation which the Government contends for.

Harold Burton:

As far as (Inaudible)

John F . Davis:

Well, that may be, Your Honor, but I think that -- that -- it would mean that any type of machine would be subject to this tax and a person who was not exceedingly learned in this, in the law would be a violator at any time by any -- any time by any such innocent thing as that, removing the names of the candy bars.

Earl Warren:

Suppose you just took the arm or the one-armed bandit and used an electric button that would propel a bar or something to start it.

Would that change the character of the machine to such an extent that it wouldn't be taxable?

John F . Davis:


I believe that the Circuit Court for this -- the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has held that such a device is -- is not -- does not change the character of the slot machine.

That same Court in its opinion also said however that a slot machine is a machine that has an insignia on it.

Earl Warren:

It has what?

John F . Davis:

Insignia with fruit, and bells, and so forth.

Earl Warren:

I beg your pardon.

John F . Davis:

It has insignia on it which -- with fruit, and bells and so forth, but that constitutes a --

Earl Warren:

And that's the only time the one-armed bandit is -- is recognized?

John F . Davis:

According to that Court, yes Your Honor.

Earl Warren:

Well, how about this -- these other ones that are more orthodox than that, that were in existence with the old duty machines to -- not to name of them?

John F . Davis:

I'm not familiar with those, Your Honor.

I'm sorry.

Charles E. Whittaker: