JEFFERSON CITY – Opponents of extending on-site credit to casino patrons are watching a maneuver by the industry to pass the legislation by attaching it to a bill unrelated to casinos.
Among the opponents are a number of casino employees.
“There are a handful of bills dealing with administrative issues with the lottery commission,” said Kerry Messer, legislative liaison for the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Christian Life Commission.
“There is an effort underway to amend those bills to allow Missouri’s casinos to permit people to gamble on credit cards or other forms of credit.”
The end result, he said, would be casino patrons who may enter a casino with a pre-designated amount of money in their pocket, get carried away, and end up losing their properties, savings accounts, homes, or whatever other assets would be put at risk by gambling on credit.
A source in the State Capitol, who asked not to be identified, likened the legislation to a “pay day loan.”
“We don’t know what the interest rates will be, who’s doing collections, how many people would be affected or who’s going to lose their homes,” he said.
“These are serious concerns to us,” he continued. “What’s the interest rate going to be? 350 percent? They will be preying on vulnerable people.”
Messer related the experience of one family: “The matriarch of the family, having never been to a casino, was bussed with a group of seniors. She became addicted. Sixty days later, she had lost the family farm, which included three family homes. Her children and grandchildren were kicked out of their homes, and all the grandchildren’s college funds were gone.”
The State Capitol source said that he expects an attempt to be made to attach the proposal to another bill, but he and his group don’t know exactly what bill.
He believes their argument will be that Missouri is losing revenue because people can go from Missouri to other states and get credit. They want the credit available here in Missouri.
The source said that the casino industry originally asked for an additional $1 boarding fee and now wants to trade that for the ability to extend credit while patrons are in the casinos.
“This is a dangerous expansion of gaming,” he said.
If the measure passes, Messer said, the casinos will be able to find out who has assets and go
“Can you really trust a predatory institution when they refuse to put in windows or clocks so customers can’t keep track of time?” Messer asked.