Wednesday, October 22, 2008

About Missouri Proposition A

From State Representative Cynthia Davis:

Gambling With Our Prosperity?

When you vote on November 4, you will help decide if we should unravel the last remaining stipulation from when the gambling "boats" were first allowed in 1994.  The ballot issue is called Proposition A, put there by the gambling industry through the initiative petition process, and it calls for removal of the loss limit.

Proposition A would allow people to lose more than the current maximum of $500 every two hours.  The biggest winner will be the casinos.  In return, they are offering to share a portion of their additional profits with the public schools.  This is only a facade.

Their goal is to make a greater profit by enabling others to take a greater loss.  Most of my constituents who gamble tell me they only gamble for fun and entertainment.  If that is true, don't you think a person can have enough fun by losing $500 every two hours?   The real goal is to extract an additional $500 million, for a total of over $2 billion, dollars out of our economy.  The proposal says it will generate more money for schools and local governments.   However, to be mathematically honest, the calculation must also subtract the money that will not go to schools and local governments because of resulting losses elsewhere in the economy.

For example, if a family cannot afford a bigger house because they are trying to pay off gambling debts, local governments lose real estate taxes, which support schools.  Home builders will not be building new homes, local retailers will not be selling as many goods, and much of the gambler's discretionary money that was used to support our local economy will be funneled to large out-of-state corporate offices where the parent company for the casino is located. 

This proposal does not create additional money.  The extra money will come out of our citizens' pockets.  We all get on the boat with a finite amount of money.  Most people lose.  The amount of money stays the same; the proposal only shifts who walks off with it.  The winner is always the casino.

This proposal also prohibits the state of Missouri from requiring identification when gamblers enter the casino for any purpose other than proving their age. If Proposition A passes, the casinos will lose their ability to deny criminals access to their establishments. This includes criminals from other states seeking to launder money that was obtained from theft, embezzlement schemes or illegal drug sales.

This scenario is further complicated by alcoholic beverages that are consumed while gambling.  People under the influence may make bad decisions they regret when they sober up later.  The current loss limit is extremely beneficial in these circumstances.

Meanwhile, while the guilty party is squandering away child support money, a custodial parent may be suffering, trying to survive without rightfully deserved sustenance.  To help counteract this problem, I plan on filing a bill in the next session that will prohibit people from entrance to a casino in Missouri if they are at the felony level of non-payment of child support.  

Some people think the loss limits are not very effective, but the facts show they are.  Here is a quote from Casino Watch:

It has been argued that the loss limit is not effective at reducing or helping compulsive gamblers and as such it should be removed. However, the loss limit helps to enforce the Missouri Disassociated Persons List, reduce the speed at which gamblers play the games, and limit the amount of financial loss that families experience as a result of gambling addiction. There are currently over 12,000 people on the Missouri Disassociated Persons List (DAP). These people voluntarily chose to exclude themselves from casinos because in most cases they are compulsive and addicted gamblers. It's obvious these people are unable to simply stop gambling at the casino or they would not have gone through the lengthy and exhaustive process of putting themselves on this self-exclusion list. This list is enforceable because each patron must show identification and obtain a boarding pass to enter a Missouri casino. If a person is on the DAP, then the computer systems the casinos use to monitor boarding and chip buy-ins will alert casino employees. This system keeps over 12,000 people from entering the casino and gambling.

At the following link, you can search for interesting information about casino revenues and the average gambling loss per person:  Casino Revenues.

You will see that the casinos always come out as the big winners and the vast majority of their patrons leave as losers.  This is okay if you really have a surplus of money to burn. However, the casinos have no screening process to determine ability to pay for big losses.  Our Congress just bailed out Wall Street, but there is no bailout for gamblers.  

Finally, you may hear that the casinos will give more money to the schools if this passes.  Don't fall for that again.  Since getting elected, the most common question I still get is, "Why isn't the gambling money going to the schools?"   That was never their intent.  They didn't open up in Missouri for the purpose of funding our schools, so don't expect that to be their end result.  This proposal is designed to extract additional money from our citizens.  While it is all voluntary, there is a point where government can function to protect its citizens from mistakes that are harmful to us as a whole.  More children will be hurt than will benefit if we remove the loss limits.  When the casinos tell us they will spend the surplus on schools, veterans and early childhood education, it is little more than an attempt to sweeten the pot with whatever will move the voters to release the last restriction left.

Lastly, when I asked my state Senator why he sponsored legislation to remove the loss limits, he said it was because people can get around them.  That kind of logic would be the same as saying, "We shouldn't have any speed limits because people can exceed the posted speed anyway."   Non-compliance has never been a good reason to get rid of a law.  You may remember a story that happened here in St. Charles County a few years ago.  A woman who was not supposed to be on the boat was gambling.  While she was losing, the casino allowed her to continue playing (and contributing to their profits).  When she won, the casino kept her winnings and required her to leave without paying out the money that she won.  The casino didn't notice her false identity when she entered, but they took note of it when it was time to part with some of their profits.

The loss limit will not keep you from eventually losing your house, but it will assure that it doesn't happen all in one night.  Missouri is the envy of many other states because we are the only one who has this provision.  Let's keep it!

To see a copy of the actual ballot question click here, and then click on "Constitutional Amendments:" Proposition A.

Your thoughts are important to me, so please let me know what you think about Proposition A.  You can send me your opinion by clicking hereCynthia Davis.


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