Monthly Archives: January 2008

Responsibility First – A Call to Action

In 2006 Singapore passed the Casino Control Act and included the “Third Party Exclusion.”  This exclusion bars people who have filed bankruptcy from casinos.  It seems intuitive that those who should be focused on their financial responsibilities should not be squandering money in a casino, but that is hardly the case in America.  However, Missouri Rep Tim Flook (R) believes that steps should be taken to ensure people live up to their responsibilities before entering a casino.  He introduced HB 1357 with co sponsors Cunningham, Kraus, Ruestman, Sander, Wells, Dusenberg, Emery, Schad, Ruzicka and Davis. HB 1357 states:

No person who has been found guilty of or has pled guilty to the crime of nonsupport of a spouse or child under section 568.040, RSMo, shall be admitted on an excursion gambling boat or in a casino in this state until such time as the person has satisfied all arrearages due.

This legislation represents a great first step to help protect those families who could otherwise take a back seat to the casinos.  Children are effected enough from gamblers in the form of neglect and abuse.  Please don’t let more children suffer because money for their care is gambled in a casino.  Contact your local representative and let them know you what them to support HB 1357.


States turning to professional marketers to take more money from its citizens

An article by Michael Gromley of the Associated Press points to a proposal from NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer to use future lottery profits from the state lottery for higher education.  The idea is simple: hire a group of professional marketers to lease the lottery from the state and turn out huge profits so everyone can benefit economically, well, everyone but the people.

The article explains that the days of claiming gambling addictions are unique to the poor would be over if such a plan is executed.  Wall Street believes that in order for a private company to think outside of the box and take more of the people’s money, they would have to target the middle class by placing games in suburban chain stores like “Target, or within impulse reach of banks’ ATMs.

The problem is that this type of proposal sets up a tax increase on the public where private companies will reap the benefit.  As the article explains:

“It’s a setup,” said Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat. “What you are seeing is a pattern where, after promising no new taxes, they are out there proposing huge increases in what the middle class and working class pay to the government. And the upper class escapes.”

In the lottery proposal, Brodsky said Wall Street will reap millions in investor fees, benefit from a better higher education system, and avoid income and business tax increases. “We are taxing the users, not the beneficiaries.”

Other states are also considering privatizing their lotteries and everyone needs to understand that its ramifications are serious.  We are now dealing with some states that not only want to use gambling to tax its people, but now they now want to use trained professionals to take as much from its people as possible.  Sadly the politicians that support this form of revenue gathering will be making a bad investment for its people as each $1 they collect from gambling revenues, the state will lose $3 in social cost.


Grassroots bind together to fight…

From the Ventura County Star newspaper to Newsweek magazine, the mainstream media has spent a great deal of time and paid an even greater deal of attention in stories just this week to the importance of grassroots supporters in this year’s presidential campaign.

Whether it be new voters or experienced advocates, facebook or neighborhood canvassing, the story of 2008 is that political success lies more and more with new forms of grassroots support.

Unique coalitions of concerned citizens are not new to the battle against gambling expansion. Family groups, small-business owners, animal lovers, economists, mental health professionals, conservatives, liberals and even kids are proclaiming the message that gambling is harmful in efforts to defeat ballot measures in communities and states all over the nation.

As the citizens of Kentucky and Jefferson City, Missouri prepare to deal with efforts to expand gambling, it is interesting to note that residents of South Florida have found success in stemming the tide of increased gambling by finding common ground among groups that may not normally be on the same side of an issue.

According to Family News in Focus, “The [South Florida] movement got a boost when former Governor Jeb Bush (R), former Senator Bob Graham (D) and Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) vowed to oppose slots.

Chad Hills from Focus on the Family Action explains, “For Marco Rubio and former Governor Jeb Bush to step forward and say, ‘We oppose this thing and we’ll be involved in the fight against it,’ adds tremendous credibility and tremendous momentum to the core coalition.”

We can only hope that leaders from all points on the political spectrum will come together in Kentucky and Missouri as they have in Florida to fight expanded gambling.

It seems pretty obvious that if this issue can bring together so many people from so many different ideological, economic, social and religious backgrounds there must be something inherently concerning about gambling expansion. Now that is a grassroot movement worth noting.


Missouri Gaming Commission Statewide Market Study Reveals Support for Loss Limit

Survey Question Result Shows Support for $500 Loss Limit

Today the Missouri Gaming Commission released their Statewide market study prepared by the University of Missouri St. Louis entitled, “The Missouri Gaming Market: Gamer Profiles and the Estimated Impact of New Gaming Facilities on the State of Missouri and Missouri’s Gaming Industry.”

Among the questions asked of the 2,500 respondents was the following question:

Missouri currently has a law that limits the amount of money a single player can lose to $500 for every 2 hours at a gaming facility. Do you favor or oppose having a $500 loss limit?

According to the study the results showed that, “A clear majority of survey respondents favor the Missouri Loss Limit.” Over 60% of those surveyed are in favor of the loss limit versus an approximate 25% who are opposed to the loss limit.

The study also concluded that if the loss limit were repealed 33.7% of Missourians would have a less favorable opinion of gaming in Missouri versus only 7.2% that would have a more favorable opinion.

This study clearly indicates that Missourians overwhelmingly support the $500 loss limit. Casino Watch Executive Director Evelio Silvera explains, “Public sentiment in support of the loss limit is clear, and legislators should reject any and all legislation that would repeal the loss limit.”

(Casino Watch staff is currently conducting a full review and analysis of this MGC sponsored UMSL market study and will be releasing our findings soon, please check back for updates)


welcome…

Today we have officially launched our blog. As you can see there are already several entries from the past few days and weeks which were posted while we were working the bugs out. In the coming days we will be adding several new features including a blogroll, audio podcasts and even some video. We already have some guests who will be posting from time to time – so we look forward to helping start a well-informed dialogue about casino gambling and its effects, on the blogosphere

We hope you enjoy the commentary and insight.

Thanks for visiting and come back soon.


Slot Machines Surge in ’08

From Family News in Focus by Kim Trobee

There are more slot machines in the U.S. than ever before, and many states are considering adding even more in ‘08. A shaky economy, the promise of quick cash and elected officials’ reluctance to cut spending are cited as reasons for the increase of electronic gaming devices.

The U.S. has a record 770,000 slot machines in 37 states and at least 7 of those are looking to expand. Peter Franchot, Comptroller for Maryland guarantees the November ballot measure to introduce slots in his state will be defeated.

“We’re totally addicted to the lottery money for our general fund. I think what a lot of us are saying is, ‘let’s draw the line at the lottery and let’s go no further.'”

Indiana also wants more slots. Curt Smith with the Indiana Family Institute says legislators are taking the easy way out.

“Basically public officials have decided that rather than raise taxes, rather than cut spending, they will rely on gaming revenue.”

And that will lead to another problem: corruption according to David Edmunds with the Family Foundation of Kentucky, another state looking to get into the business.

“When the casino pushers stand to profit in the billions of dollars, then they will control state government.”

The money is inviting to those who pay the state’s bills, but Evelio Silvera with Casino Watch warns the human cost is incalculable.

“The unfortunate cost then has to deal with many broken homes, many bankruptcies and many fallouts to our families.”

“Casino gambling is the only area where legislators actually look to make losers out of its people to make winners out of their state budgets.”

There are already 100,000 new machines approved to go into operation this year.


Jefferson City Council Vote Ignores the Will of the People

On Monday, January 7th the Jefferson City Council did something very curious; they decided to put gambling on the April 2008 ballot. This move is curious because the people have not asked for this issue to be revisited. In 1995 the issue came up for a vote and the people decided to ban casinos in Jefferson City. Since that time there has been no overwhelming support for gambling. No groups lead a charge to influence the minds of the people. As a matter of fact it wasn’t even the people that brought this issue up before the council, it was a single Jefferson City Council member who decided to reintroduce gambling.

The Council chose to hold several public hearings to get a pulse on the issue. At the first meeting we shared with you that:

Over 60 people attended the public hearing with 24 choosing to speak to the City Council. The overwhelming opinion was against allowing a casino in Jefferson City with only three of the 24 speakers being in favor of a casino. According to KRCG13, ‘If it’s any indication, don’t bet on riverboat gaming coming to Jefferson City – at least, not anytime soon.”

The second meeting was no different from the first as the opposition greatly outnumbered the pro-casino speakers with 14 speaking against and only two in support. And there was great diversity in the speakers who opposed the issue so it wasn’t as though one group was in opposition in an effort to skew the numbers against. There were veterans, clergy, a bankruptcy attorney, the ex-wife of a compulsive gambler, businessmen, former law enforcement officers, a number of people who had lived in areas into which casinos had moved, people who had chosen Jefferson City as a home because it had no casino, and other concerned citizens.

Despite all that, the vote by the Council was 6-4 in favor of adding the issue to the ballot claiming they want the people to decide. I want to be very clear on my position. I have no problem with letting the people decide, but what those six council members didn’t seem to realize is that the people have decided. They voted in 1995 to ban gambling and there has been no support for gambling since that time. I could understand these votes if there had been any semblance of support at the two public meetings that were held. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

I am curious as to why in the face of such obvious opposition those council members would vote to place the issue on the ballot. Did they do so because they believe its okay to make losers of its citizens in order gain revenue as an alternative to taxes because if they raised taxes they might not get reelected? Did they do so because they were more concerned with their own self-interest than the interests of the people? Did they do it because as resident M.L. Allison said to the associated press, they have ” a total lack of respect for the people they represent.” Or did they do so because the help of casino campaign contributions elected them into office?

I guess we may never know why they ignored the will of the people but one thing is certain; we must be vigilant in sharing the truth about how this issue got on the ballot and we must work even harder to help fight back the money the casino industry will bring to Jefferson City in order to sway the vote.


Revisiting the National Gambling Impact Study

In June of 1999, the National Gambling Impact Study Commission issued its report, as directed by Congress. This was the first major and comprehensive study of gambling in America in 23 years. The Commissioners believe that this Nation needs to stop expanding gambling in order to take a real honest look at both the Economic and Social devastation that ensues. As the NCISC reported, “the purpose of this recommended pause is to encourage governments to do what to date few if any have done: To survey the results of their decisions and to determine if they have chosen wisely.”

Unfortunately, since 1999 this country has seen anything but a pause in gambling expansion. I suppose the reason for the success is not that shocking. Even in the face of independent and peer reviewed economic analysis, most legislators have been sold on a faulty argument of economic growth and prosperity. The State itself is addicted to the money that gambling revenues generate from taxes, or should I say the bribes. In what other industry is it so blatantly obvious that they must provide a cut of the take to the State in the form of extortionate taxes in an effort to make a product that has been illegal for a hundred years in this country suddenly legal again?

Many Politicians have put sound logic and economic principles aside to make a quick buck for the State. But what they don’t want to hear is that in the long run they cost themselves 3 times what they collect in taxes. What they don’t want to hear is that in order to make money in the legislature they must necessarily make losers of its people. What they don’t want to hear is that hasty decisions regarding gambling expansion leads to broken homes, countless criminal acts and compulsive and pathological disorders to their people. And all of this is sold to the people as harmless “entertainment and fun.”

The conversation needs to be refocused on the truth. Its time to choose to reject the spin of “simple entertainment” that has resurrected an industry that this country correctly put to bed a hundred years ago. The truth’s genesis lies in independent, comprehensive and peer reviewed work. The truth’s genesis lies in the willingness to actively research a decision instead of just following the crowd. And the truth’s genesis lies in people’s open discussion about what expanded gambling really means.

The National Gambling Impact Study Commission takes a comprehensive view of the gambling industry and is only one of many sources to come that helps refocus the truth. Excerpts of their study as well as links to the report in its entirety can be found on our website. I would encourage all of you to look over their report and share with others what you have learned and maybe together we can refocus the conversation.


MO $500 Loss Limit: A major target of the Casino Industry in 2008

For as long as gambling in Missouri has been legal, casino companies have been fairly active in trying to find a way to end the $500 Loss Limit.  They have attempted everything from simple removal to well-orchestrated trades and deals such as removing the loss limit in exchange for a cap on casino licenses and increased taxes.  The most common strategy employed however has been to promote money for education in exchange for the removal of the loss limit. 

Last year, for example, one of the largest recipients of campaign contributions of gambling special interest, Senator Charlie Shields introduced SB 430 and pitched it as an education bill entitled The Smart Start Scholarship.  The idea was to remove the loss limit then take a cut of the extra revenue to provide supposed scholarships to Missouri students.  After Casino Watch helped to expose the education hoax as a massive gambling expansion bill, it never passed the Senate.  However, the industry believes that they were close enough to a deal last year that want to reattempt the same bill this year.  As such, Senator Shields has indicated he will reintroduce the bill in this year’s legislative session.

If the casino industry fails its renewed attempt in the legislature, the KC Star is reporting they “filed paperwork with the Missouri secretary of state seeking a statewide referendum in November” with the intent of putting the issue to a vote of the people of Missouri. 

This state and others have seen this constitutional initiative as a political weapon of choice, as was evident last year with Amendment II.  We can expect that the casino industry till invest a great deal of money in an attempt to persuade Missourians to vote against the loss limit. 

As explained in the Stanford Journal of Law 2003, voters will be subjected to nonacademic disinformation as the gambling industry routinely uses their influence to create studies that don’t have backed university support, that don’t properly provide the numbers behind their research necessary for proper peer review and are produced by biased pro gambling interests.  Please stay up to date on all relevant information on Missouri’s $500 Loss Limit here and expect the casino’s to pull out all the stops as they target the $500 Loss Limit in 08’.