Monthly Archives: February 2008

casinos file ballot intiative to remove loss limit

On Wednesday, the Missouri Secretary of State’s office approved ballot language for a ballot initiative filed by Troy Stremming, an executive with Ameristar Casino.

The casino industry is supporting and pushing a variety of legislation in the Missouri General Assembly this session which would relax regulations on the industry, including removing the $500 loss limit. While representatives of gambling special interests have tried every year since gambling was legalized in Missouri to remove the loss limit, they have been up to this point unsuccessful. Now the casinos seek a vote of the people. It would seem logical then that state legislators would halt their quest to speak for Missourians and do the bidding of gambling special interests by forcing legislation through the legislature instead of letting the people speak.

Rick Alm of the Kansas City star reports:

Evelio Silvera, executive director of Casino Watch, said Wednesday the St. Louis-based anti-gambling organization will campaign against the measure to further relax state gambling laws.

“This is the last remnant of the original deal people voted on when they legalized gambling,” he said.

Silvera said he wouldn’t be worried if the people did vote again.

Citing recent public opinion survey findings by the Missouri Gaming Commission, Silvera noted that more than 60 percent of respondents supported the loss limit, while only around 25 percent supported repeal.

caps and moratoriums with casino support

The unpredictable, ever changing environment of the Missouri legislative session has just gotten more interesting. As was reported last week, the Missouri Gaming Association opposed a decision by the Missouri Gaming Commission to authorize a 14th casino in Missouri to be located in the Kansas City area in Sugar Creek, MO. It seems that the opposition to a new casino in Sugar Creek has created an interesting alliance, according to Virginia Young of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

In an unlikely pairing, the gambling industry is pushing a bill sponsored by a conservative Republican, Sen. Jack Goodman of Mt. Vernon.

His bill (SB1171) would place a two-year moratorium on licenses for new casinos.

After utilizing statistics and information found in the Missouri Gaming’s Commission recently released statewide market study at a hearing in front of the Missouri Gaming Commission when the new Sugar Creek casino was being considered, the Missouri Gaming Association once again distributed evidence and analysis from the market study to support their argument that the Kansas City area does not need and cannot support another casino. It seems though that even with evidence found in a study produced and paid for by the Missouri Gaming Commission, that the commission’s Executive Director, Gene McNary will not accept any argument to reject the expansion of gambling in the state of Missouri by adding a new Kansas City area casino.

Senator Jack Goodman is not the only legislator pushing for a stop to the issuance of new casino licenses with the support of the casino industry. State Representative Shannon Cooper has introduced HB 2232, which would cap the number of licensed casinos in Missouri to 13, which would not include the Sugar Creek casino. Rep. Cooper has stated that he is hoping his legislation is passed in the House and Senate and then signed by the Governor before the Gaming Commission finalizes approval of the new Sugar Creek casino.

Just in case both of these pieces of legislation fail, the casino industry wants to put the subject of removing the loss limit and potentially limiting new licenses up to a vote of the people through an ballot initiative. The Post-Dispatch reports:

If the bill doesn’t pass, the gaming industry has another option: an initiative petition. A proposal ready for circulation would cap the state’s casinos at those already built or being built. It also would repeal the state’s $500 loss limit and raise gaming taxes slightly.

bill to remove loss limit moves through senate committee

This afternoon with just enough Senators present for a quorum, the Senate Ways and Means Committee chaired by Sen. Carl Vogel, passed SB 1052 which removes the loss limit.

Even though a hearing on the bill which took place last week provided testimony citing the Missouri Gaming Commission’s recently released statewide market study showing that, “A clear majority of survey respondents favor the Missouri Loss Limit.” Members of the committee seemed to have been persuaded by the anecdotal evidence and personal stories of the main sponsor Sen. Scott Rupp more than statistics showing that over 60% of Missourians are in favor of the loss limit versus an approximate 25% who are opposed to the loss limit.

This decision seems curious in light of the casino industry filing of an ballot initiative with the Secretary of State that would essentially accomplish the same goals as SB 1052. With no public outcry for the removal of the loss limit and no evidence to suggest that the legislature needs to act immediately, the motivations behind this bill being forced through the Missouri General Assembly are not quite clear. Many Senators in the past have questioned why the loosening of regulations over the casino industry have not been approved by a vote of the people. Now as the legislature once again deals with the issue of loss limit removal (the only remnant of the original deal used to convince Missourians to legalize gambling in the state) many are left wondering why this issue isn’t simply left to the people to decide. It must be that the gambling special interests and their legislative supporters really know the true feelings of Missourians. Maybe they did listen to the factual evidence provided during last week’s hearing after all.

More Women Gambling

From Family News in Focus by Steve Jordahl:

Gambling is on the rise in all segments of society, but experts are seeing an increase in the number of women who are becoming addicted.

In Arizona, more than half of the calls to gambling help lines are from women, up from just 20 percent two decades ago. Don Hulen of the Arizona Council on Compulsive Gambling says the majority meets what he calls the ‘escape’ gambler profile.

“(They) didn’t start gambling till later in life, gambled primarily at what we call luck games, that being machines, were quiet, reserved, caring, giving.”

In the push towards equality, women have not found a way to shed some of the more destructive traits of power and independence. Valerie Lorenz of the Forensic Center on Compulsive Gambling.

“Women in the past would not have access to money that they could just spend readily or they wouldn’t be able to go to a gambling site. But now you can go to a grocery story or to an airport and buy lottery tickets or whatever.”

With the help of sophisticated marketing research, Lorenz says the gambling industry is ensnaring women.

“Women are more attracted to certain symbols, they might even have romantic types of themes on the slot machines.”

And she says women are taking the bait.

“Of addicted gamblers 20 years ago, about 10 percent would be women. Now it’s 50/50 and we’re seeing large increases on the women’s side.”

Missouri makes it 14…Gaming Commission Expands Gambling by adding a new casino

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.

Missouri Senate Ways and Means Committee holds hearing over loss limit removal

Sen. Scott Rupp has introduced legislation (Senate Bill 1052) which would remove the $500 Loss Limit. Yesterday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee heard testimony regarding the merits of SB 1052 and will be voting on whether this bill will be sent out of committee to the floor for debate.

From Jason Noble at the Kansas City Star:

Missouri lawmakers on Monday renewed the debate over casino loss limits, a subject that generated lots of action but no payoff in the legislature last year…

…Opponents on Monday said loss limits were an important check for problem gamblers and were preferred by most casino patrons.

Evelio Silvera, executive director of the anti-gambling organization Casino Watch, pointed to a market study conducted by the University of Missouri-St. Louis for the Missouri Gaming Commission that showed more than 60 percent of gamblers favored loss limits. The study also said loss limits did not factor strongly into a gambler’s decision to attend one casino over another…

…Casino operators have a backup plan should the legislation fail again.

In December, a coalition of gambling companies filed paperwork for an initiative petition that would seek to put many of the changes found in the bill on the ballot. If lawmakers cannot get it done, then the casinos will put the issue to voters directly.

From Bob Priddy at Missourinet:

The gambling industry has launched its annual assault on the loss limits at Missouri’s casinos…

…Opponents say Rupp’s logic is faulty—that western Missouri boats won’t lose 40 percent of their business just because that many customers come from Kansas. Further, they say, public surveys show that the loss limit is not a factor in gamblers’ decisions to visit this casino or that one. They also note that gambling’s contribution to the state budget for education is only a small part of the overall state education spending package.

State of confusion…is it bingo or is it a slot?

Guest Article:

California’s capital, Sacramento, is finding itself in the middle of a dispute this year about the legality of certain bingo machines. Sacramento’s NBC affiliate KCRA found that many officials in the state and county agree on the illegal nature of these bingo machines that look and feel like slot machines, but are supposedly used for charity fundraising. explains that last year the “bingo” machines in question brought in $42 million for 15 local Sacramento charities, yet even with level of revenue production, a memo from Sacramento Sheriff John McGuinness finds that these bingo slot machines are against the law. While there would seem to be a simple answer to the legality of these slot machines, R.L. Davis, head of the sheriff’s Bingo Compliance Team, goes on to tell KCRA that the legality of these machines becomes more and more confused, because the county has passed an ordinance saying that such bingo-charity games are, in fact, legal. Now no agency in the Sacramento area is willing to enforce the laws against slot machines.

While local government is deciding the future and nature of these bingo games, nearby Indian Casinos have no doubt about the machines’ purpose. As reported by KCRA, spokespeople for Indian casinos in the area strongly disagree that these machines are legal. Agreements between the Governor and the tribes say that slot machines are only legal inside of tribal casinos, causing the tribes to protest these questionable machines. They have even threatened to pull their promise of millions of dollars toward the state’s General Fund due to this violation of their exclusive right to slot machines.

A lawsuit has been filed against the county ordinance that is clouding the legality of these machines, and until a decision is made in that case, law enforcement is resolved to do nothing about these bingo slot machines.

A new meaning for charitable gambling

An article published in the Weekend Herald out of New Zealand brings startling news. They point to research by BDO Kendalls, one of Australia’s leading accounting and business advisory firms, which indicates charities are losing millions of dollars to internal theft by staff to fund gambling addictions. The average amount stolen by staff was $180,643, almost five times higher than those who stole to maintain a certain lifestyle. They indicate that of the money stolen from charities 53% is for gambling, which is undeniably alarming. The Herald explains:

Problem Gambling Foundation CEO John Stansfield said he knew the figure would be high, but was shocked that gambling related fraud was hitting charities worse than the private sector.

“Effective charities are very dependent on trust,” he said. “The public and the funders need to have confidence that they are using funds wisely and clients need to feel the organisation (sic) helping them has integrity.” Mr. Stansfield said fraud and theft by employees undermined those relationships and posed a real threat to credibility and effectiveness for the whole non-profit sector.

Considering the countless examples of embezzlement and fraud that comes with expanded gambling, and the fact that the New England Journal of Medicine says that “pathological gambling is the fastest growing mental heath problem in the western world,” it would be no surprise if similar research found the exact same results here in America.

The results of this study should also give pause to legislators seeking to expand gambling and remove the Missouri Loss Limit. The consequences of removing the loss limit will be felt by a variety of citizens and even charitable organizations.

Legislator who proposes loss limit removal received nearly $1,700 in casino lobbyists’ gifts in 2007

Hat tip to Randy Turner at the Turner Report for his vigilance of campaign contributions in Missouri, including contributions from gambling special interests.

As legislation to remove the loss limit is now being considered in the Missouri Senate and House, it is important to understand the motivation of several legislators seeking the removal of a restriction that has never been requested or popular among the voters of Missouri.

Make sure to read the entire story from the Turner Report and search his archive for other related stories.

Used with permission from the Turner Report:

In fact, Shannon Cooper received $1,696.88 in gifts from Ameristar lobbyists William Gamble, Jorgen Schlemeier, Sarah Topp, and Betsy Morgan in 2007.

This might not be such a big deal. After all, each time The Turner Report prints its Hall of Shame listings for legislators who take the most in lobbyists’ gifts, there are many who probably are just taking the freebies to be taking the freebies, no matter how distasteful that may be to some of us.

But in this particular instance, Cooper is proposing legislation that will directly benefit Ameristar Casinos. On Thursday, Cooper filed a bill which would remove the loss limit for casinos and limit competition for casinos currently operating in Missouri. HB 2043 has many items concerning the placement of gambling funds in education, but the key parts of this legislation, mentioned in the last sentence, would give the casino interests everything they want.

Why are we doing this again?

California is no stranger to Indian Gaming, it represents a $7 billion a year industry and with the passage of props 94-97 it’s soon to grow.  The original intent of legalized Indian Gaming was to help tribes develop economically and socially.  Ralph Stone, a retired attorney living in San Francisco, revisited the issue in a recent commentary.  He points to “An Impact Analysis of Tribal Government Gaming in California,” published by the Center for California Native Nations at the University of California, Riverside (January 2006) to help examine if these casino’s are in fact helping Native Americans.

I encourage you to read the article as it provides some very reveling statistics that leads Stone to conclude:

Clearly, gaming revenue has not been the cure-all for the economic and social problems in the Indian community. Hopefully, future gaming revenue will be judiciously spent to eliminate the economic and social disparity between American Indians and the general population.

planting the proverbial seed: how our youth is in danger

The Oregon Lottery launched what would seem like a thoughtful and well-intentioned event called “Scratch-it for Schools.” It’s a way to promote the lottery to achieve revenue for the state while providing proceeds to local schools. Last year the Lottery raised about $86,000 on the event, but the states school budget is over $6.2 billion. An increase in the budget of .00014 percent hardly seems very beneficial to Oregon Schools, but that’s hardly the point. The Oregon Lottery claims that the event is not about helping schools; it’s a promotional program for the Lottery.

The real problem is not that the Lottery is choosing to promote its self-interests with a slick PR campaign. The problem is that Scratch-it for Schools invited K-12 public schools to participate in the event. They encouraged the schools to register online from their personal computers because most schools block the Lotteries website. Teams of eight adults will then be selected to scratch as many tickets as possible with the school keeping the proceeds.

This type of promotion is careless and is designed specifically to plant the seed in children early that gambling is acceptable. As Chuck Sheketoff, executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy said:

Scratch-it for Schools is nothing but a public relations scam peddling the lie that lottery games can be a panacea for schools’ funding shortages, all the while validating gambling in the eyes of our kids.

Instead of helping promote the fantasy that playing the lottery will solve life’s challenges, schools should teach kids the facts of life: taxes, not gambling revenues, are responsible for 90 percent of school funding

harmless super bowl wagers?

Guest Article:

Super Bowl Sunday brings about lots of excitement with the electricity of stats and facts, and a perfect season riding on the line. But a lesser-known fact is that Super Bowl Sunday is one of the largest social gambling events in the nation. The Morning Sentinel points to the 2007 Super Bowl as having an estimated $8 billion in wagers placed on its outcome. This flashy, center-stage event brings out several “social” gamblers, some of whom consider placing little bets here and there harmless. The article explains that experts have information to the contrary.

Guy Cousins, acting director of Maine Office of Substance Abuse, is referenced as estimating that 3 to 5 percent of those who participate in wagering will become problem gamblers. Another expert mentioned, Lee Thompson, president of the Maine Council on Problem Gambling explained, “We’ve seen an increase in the calls from Maine to the Nation Council on Problem Gambling hotline, from eight calls a month in 2003 to over 100 a month in 2006.”

It appears that the glitzy glam of the Super Bowl attracts people to make social wagers, a harmless bit of fun in their mind. But the dollar amount waged on the Super Bowl climbs each year, as does the number of problem gamblers. The Super Bowl garners over three times the amount wagered on NCAA basketball’s March Madness.

Is this a harmless Sunday addition to one of America’s most popular day of sports? The numbers show it only to be a growing problem.