MGM Grand In Legal Fight With Michigan Over “Virtual Beer Pitchers”

Image courtesy of (Shawn Toohey)

If you’re splitting a pitcher of beer between pals and you’re all imbibing at a decent enough rate, the beer in said pitcher will stay reasonably fresh. But how about a device that lets you buy a pitcher’s worth of beer, but only pours it out when you want more to drink? The folks at the MGM Grand Detroit think it’s a pretty cool idea. Unfortunately, the state of Michigan seems to think it would violate the state’s ban on alcohol vending machines.

According to a complaint recently filed in federal court, the Virtual Pitcher is a “beer dispensing device at a patron’s table which would allow a patron or employee to pour a pre-determined amount of beer (32 ounces in this instance) from a metered beer tap which would automatically cease functioning after the pre-determined amount has been dispensed.”

MGM points out that while the patron can pour themselves some beer from the allotted amount, he will not and cannot have the ability to turn on the Virtual Pitcher.” Only the bar manager would be able to turn the device on, and only after having done the required age and intoxication checks.

To the casino, this is no different than having a 32-ounce pitcher available for the customer. That pitcher can not magically refill itself.

And yet the Michigan Liquor Control Commission still considers these devices to be vending machines, and therefore not allowed.

According to Rule 45 of the MLCC’s General Rules [PDF]:

A licensee shall not allow, on the licensed premises, any vending machine, whether or not operated
by coin or currency, that dispenses a type of alcoholic liquor directly to a customer. This subrule does not
apply to a dispensing machine, which is commonly known as an “in-room bar device”, whether or not
operated by coin or currency, and which is located in the bedrooms or suites of licensed hotels.

The casino seeks damages and a declaratory judgment that the Virtual Pitcher is not a vending machine.

MGM Grand Fights for ‘Virtual Pitchers’ []

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