Today’s Missouri Gaming Commission meeting in Jefferson City drew quite the crowd of interested parties. Beyond the normal consideration of rule infractions, key applicants and settlement agreements, the commission heard presentations for and against a new casino in Sugar Creek, MO.
William Brasher, representing the Missouri Gaming Association, objected to the approval of a casino in Sugar Creek by sharply criticizing the reasoning of the commission on the addition of another casino into the Kansas City marketplace. Citing evidence from the Missouri Gaming Commission’s recently released statewide market study, Mr. Brasher explained that Kansas City had reached its capacity for casinos. During his presentation, Mr. Brasher explained that the gaming commission had a longstanding tradition of “controlled growth.”
State Representative Ray Salva and Sugar Creek Mayor Stan Salva spoke in favor of a new casino in Sugar Creek by explaining the variety of uses that the city has envisioned for the site around the proposed casino.
While the only factual evidence provided during the presentations painted a clear picture against approval of the new casino, the Gaming Commission voted unanimously to expand gambling and approve Missouri’s fourteenth casino.
It is surprising, given the content of the presentations made, the evidence found in the gaming commission’s own study, and the previous statements of the commission when approving other casinos, that the gaming commission would approve a new casino let alone by unanimous vote.
It is important to note that upon approval of the two Pinnacle Entertainment casinos in downtown St. Louis and South St. Louis County (Lemay) then Missouri Gaming Commission Executive Director Kevin Mullaley expressed that the state had reached its limit when it came to the number of casinos. While this has proven to be true by a variety of factors, it is surprising that the current Executive Director, Gene McNary, would seek to fast-track a decision on squeezing another casino into a state that is not clamoring or asking for the expansion of gambling. The speed at which the Gaming Commission has come to this decision to expand gambling has caught a great deal of attention. According to Rick Alm of the Kansas City Star:
Despite consultants’ warning, commissioners on Jan. 16 set in motion a startling timetable for Sugar Creek.
Noting one applicant already is on file, commissioners asked McNary to report back on Feb. 20 “whether a gaming facility in the area would be in the best interest of the state.”
At the same time commissioners opened a 45-day application window that closes March 1.
A mere 18 days later, McNary is to advise commissioners which Sugar Creek applicant he and his staff recommend for “priority investigation” — usually the first step toward groundbreaking and eventual licensing.
What is the rush? The commission has placed no justification in the public record for an accelerated timetable.
During the discussion over the new casino in Sugar Creek, Rep. Salva repeatedly stated that “competition” is the motto of the state. Unfortunately Rep. Salva has missed the several inscriptions of the actual motto of Missouri displayed throughout the State Capitol including the main entrance. Our state’s motto is, “The Welfare of the People Shall be the Supreme Law.” It seems that during the discussion and decision to expanding gambling today, no one remembered to consider the welfare of the people of Missouri who will be made losers so that another gambling company can be a winner.