Gambling loss limit targeted
JEFFERSON CITY – Senate Bill 430, the latest attempt to repeal the $500 loss limit per two hours clause in Missouri law, ought to stir Missouri Southern Baptists into action, according to Kerry Messer, lobbyist for the Christian Life Commission (CLC) of the Missouri Baptist Convention.
“We expect that the promise that the casinos gave us, the last remaining promise they gave us after they’d broken all the others, must stay intact,” he said. “It protects people. The fact is, individual bankruptcies are not as high in Missouri due to casino activity as they are in the other states where there are no loss limits.”
Senate Majority Floor Leader Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, is sponsoring the bill that would end the loss limits and impose a 1 percent tax increase on casinos as well as capping licenses at 13. The increased revenue from the tax hike would go toward a Smart Start Scholarship Fund for high school graduates attending Missouri colleges or universities. The Missouri Gaming Association is in favor of the bill.
“It’s a major expansion of gambling,” Messer said.
The scholarship fund idea is not as good as it sounds.
“It’s just a political maneuver of gaining support and saying that we’re doing something good with the money,” Messer said. “When casinos were authorized in 1991 until now, Missouri education is no better than it was before. The money going into public education from the casinos does not offset the money that the state has lost taking care of the social cost of gambling.”
Shields represents a segment of the majority party that is powerful.
“We suspect that this bill will come out of committee, but we also have to bear in mind that one of the reasons that a bill oftentimes gets a public hearing even though it doesn’t come out of committee is to kind of lay a political groundwork for an opportunity for an amendment to be attached to another piece of legislation,” Messer said. “So as always, Missouri Baptists need to maintain a presence—to watch the Legislature every day they are in session.”
The majority party may be able to push this bill through the Senate and House of Representatives, but in the process of attempting to do so it may want to refer to its own party platform. That document reads: “The Missouri Republican Party supports the maintenance of Missouri’s visionary casino loss limits to protect all citizens from terrorist and other criminal elements, laundering of cash capital used to fund their activities.” Messer noted that those words are instructional.
“It’s clearly a case where Republicans in public office need to understand the platform that was created by the grassroots,” he said.