Monthly Archives: May 2008

Newly Passed Senate Bill Means Less Influence For Average Voter…Maybe More Influence for Casinos

Guest Article by Chris Schultheis:

Two weeks ago, in a flurry to pass as many bills as possible before the session ended, Senate Bill 1038 was passed, repealing the limit on campaign contributions.  This seems to be a move that goes completely against the will of the people.  The Springfield News-Leader explains

As we’ve said in this space before, opening up the floodgates to high-powered donors takes the power to influence debate out of the hands of the average voter.

Missourians showed in a referendum in 1994 that they overwhelmingly supported controls on campaign contributions. A total of 73.9 percent voted to establish limits

With more and more contributions from powerful donors, the average voter stands to lose more and more influence over legislators.  This legislative manuver opens up opportunities for big companies such as casinos to wield greater influence over legislators than the general population.

According to, since 2004, casinos have used more than $1.5 million dollars to influence legislation with the limitations in place.  Now that those limitations have been repealed, it is likely that we will see this number build exponentially in an attempt to influence the legislature in removing the loss limit and expand gambling in order to fatten casino’s wallets.

Taking a Gamble With the Powerball? You Might Want to Think Twice

Guest Article from Laurel Spencer:

With the promise of lavish wealth and complete monetary freedom, it is no wonder why countless Americans choose to take a gamble at the powerball. While this ethereal hope glimmers in so many hearts, powerball winner Jack Whitaker is thinking twice about the fortune he acquired some 6 years ago.

After winning a $315 million powerball in 2002, Whitaker’s previously happy and carefree life has gone steadily down hill. According to the Columbia Tribune’s article from the Associated Press, divorce has driven away Whitaker’s wife and lifetime sweetheart of 8th grade, and he has suffered the loss of his granddaughter, friends, dignity, and reputation. Whitaker explains in the article:

I don’t have any friends. Every friend that I’ve had, practically, has wanted to borrow money or something, and … once they borrow money from you, you can’t be friends anymore.

Since he won the lottery, Whitaker has been sued repeatedly and has been involved in a total of 460 legal actions; burglary to his house and car have also become a prevalent issue. Additionally, Whitaker’s gambling and drinking problems have become wide spread and have smeared his reputation, causing his wife to file papers for divorce. During this time the Associated Press reports he also suffered the loss of his beloved 17-year-old granddaughter due to a drug overdose.

Although the promise of acquiring a fortune devoid of work of any kind is a tempting offer, one must take pause to wonder if the price tag associated with such winnings is really worth it. Surely no one would stay to wonder if playing a “harmless game” could uproot someone’s life or rob them of their joy, but the consequences of such actions are, in many cases, undeniable and are indeed a matter worthy of consideration.

Valuing gambling over a child’s safety; sad times indeed

ABC News has reported a tragic story that may be more common than people could imagine.  They point to the arrest of a couple who left their children locked in a car while they entered a casino and gambled.  ABC News explained:

When they were discovered by Madera County sheriff’s deputies, the children — a 2-year-old and a 10-month-old — “were crying, screaming, sweating profusely and their skin had turned reddish in color,” sheriff’s department spokeswoman Erica Stuart said.

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. ABC News reported that The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky. found 37 instances of unattended children left in cars while their parents or caretakers where gambling.  What’s so startling is that the 37 instances represent just one year and worst of all, they represent just one state, Indiana. Considering that most states have some form of legalized gambling and considering how many parents have probably done such a terrible act without ever getting caught, its easy to conclude that we are facing a very real and serious problem.

As ABC News goes on to report, someone who is willing to do such a selfish and harmful act to a child most likely has a gambling addiction and such acts are simply an extension of the abuse and neglect their family suffers from when such addiction is present:

The 1999 National Gambling Impact Study Commission Report found that compulsive gamblers had higher rates of child abuse and neglect.

“The impact on [the] lives of those poor souls and their families is stunning,” said Timothy Kelley, the commission’s director.  “It’s not that they’re bad people. But they’re engaged in an activity that is so powerful that they literally escaped from their own life. They don’t think about their own life. They literally forgot that their child is out in the car dying,” he said.

Going for the easy prey…an Illinois casino with absolutely no shame

The Chicago Tribune reported a most unfortunate incident:

An Aurora casino has been fined $800,000 by the Illinois Gaming Board for marketing its facility to people with self-identified chronic gambling problems, officials said.

Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns Hollywood Casino, sent marketing materials to at least 146 people on a database containing those who have asked to be excluded from getting such solicitations, officials said. Three Penn employees also were suspended for up to two weeks in conjunction with the mailings.

In January, a marketer affiliated with Penn apparently sent materials to 16,000 people, with some reaching those on the self-exclusion list. This was the second fine related to self-exclusion lists for Hollywood, a Gaming Board spokesman said. The company was fined $600,000 in July 2006.

These self-exclusion lists exist to protect the most vulnerable and their families.  It’s deplorable that a casino company would repeatedly target them, and by effect, their families.  This is more proof that casinos don’t care who they hurt nor do they really care to help those they hurt.  This level of hypocrisy, claiming to support programs for those with addiction then using that list as a marketing tool, is unimaginable and I hope $1.4 million in fines will actually send an appropriate message but some how I doubt it will.

Kansas Supreme Court to take up the State Owned Casinos law

The Joplin Globe is reporting that the Kansas Supreme Court has agreed to take up the constitutional issue of Kansas owning casinos.  At the heart of the debate is the original law establishing the authority of the Kansas Lottery to own casinos and slots:

The state Constitution allows a state-owned and operated lottery, and the Supreme Court said in 1994 the term “lottery” is broad enough to include slot machines and other casino games.

Under the law, the Lottery contracts with developers to build and operate casinos, but it makes clear the facilities are state-owned and operated. Twelve other states have nontribal resort casinos, but only Kansas would have state-owned facilities, according to the American Gaming Association.

As reported earlier its quite clear that KS is not really owning anything but the profits because they won’t purchase the equipment, market their product or absorb any expenses related to doing business.  The Kansas City Star explained:

In questioning the constitutionality of the law, the attorney general argued Kansas would “own” the apparatus of legalized gambling despite the fact it would hold title to no land, build or finance no buildings nor purchase slot machines or other gambling equipment or supplies.

“The right to own and operate those casinos will be sold to the highest bidders, with the state doing nothing more than collecting tax revenue and enacting regulations,” it said.

The Kansas legislature must think this method of ownership makes the practice legal under state law but it’s a difference without distinction. The court will hear arguments and will most likely give their ruling on June 27th, the next scheduled date for issuing opinions.

From the Blogosphere: Republican and Democrat Leaders have a night out at the casino

Missouri Political News Service is reporting that current Speaker of the House Rod Jetton (R) along with Sen. Chris Koster (D), Sen. Jason Crowell (R), and Sen. Jeff Smith (D) enjoyed a night of “clubbing” at the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles, MO supposedly at the expense of a campaign committee controlled by House Majority Floor Leader Leader Steve Tilley (R).

According to Missouri Political News Service:

Rod “Village Man” Jetton, Chris “The Imposter” Koster, and Jason “What Rod Said” Crowell were seen at the St. Charles Ameristar Casino this weekend, enjoying all the amenities the gaming giant has to offer. Oh, and Jeff Smith was also there, even though he apparently wasn’t being allowed onto the casino since his court date for breaking the law at the Isle of Capri in Boonville is just a month away. And let’s not forget that Jetton, Smith and others were spotted at the same club back in March to catch of glimpse of Paris Hilton.

The story goes on to state:

What makes the latest Ameristar visit so intriguing besides the Village Law implications and Smith’s indiscretions is that the recent “boys night out” is that it was being paid for by the 106th Campaign Committee controlled by Tilley.

As we previously reported, the House Republican Campaign Committee (HRCC) under the direction of Speaker Jetton did decide to refuse future campaign contributions from casinos. However, Sen. Koster and Sen. Smith have taken several campaign contributions from gambling special interests.

We will be sure to update this story if there are any statements issued by the elected officials involved.

Gov. Matt Blunt’s assesment of the MO General Assembly’s Legislative Session

Last Friday marked the end of the Missouri General Assembly’s 2008 legislative session. The last day of the session was marked by a blistering pace to pass and deal with bills on a variety of topics. According to Gov. Blunt’s press release, the task of reviewing those bills which did pass both the House and Senate is now underway:

The General Assembly completed the session after approving 139 bills, and today Gov. Matt Blunt and his office began the massive undertaking of reviewing the bills sent to his desk following another successful legislative session...

We will be providing our Casino Watch Legislative Review in the upcoming days.


VIDEO: From Jason Rosenbaum of the Columbia Tribune, Gov. Matt Blunt addresses the media and provides his analysis of the 2008 legislative session

Casino targets local colleges to recruit new employees

The Joplin Globe reported that the Downstream Casino Resort held a job fair at Missouri Southern State University.  The casino, being built by a tribe in Oklahoma where it borders Missouri and Kansas, plans to open on July 5th and is looking for those just entering the job market to promote there predatory industry.

It’s unfortunate that new graduates are being targeted to work in the casino industry.  Forbes magazine has rated some casino jobs among the worst paying jobs in America.  It’s also unfortunate that students are recruited to work in these environments without really thinking about what kind of product they are promoting.  Given how impressionable new students seeking their first job are, I doubt they think about the number of bankruptcies or suicides they will contribute to or the number of families casinos pull apart because of abuse and neglect caused by gambling addiction.

I just hope that those who are looking into jobs in predatory industries like gambling understand what they will be associating themselves with and that they are not unduly influenced because the casinos showed up at a local college looking for new young and impressionable employees.

Starting the Last Week of the MO legislative session

As we enter the last week of the Missouri General Assembly’s legislative session, we wanted to take a moment and share some of our latest “Weekly Legislative Reports” from the main site.

We receive a great number of inquiries as to the status of a variety of gambling bills being considered by the General Assembly, so we have been diligent in educating our friends and supporters on the latest action from the halls of Jefferson City. Please take an opportunity to get caught up by reading some of our previous legislative reports.

We will be providing a detailed summary of this year’s legislative session next week.


VIDEO UPDATE:  Jason Rosenbaum from the Columbia Tribune Politics Blog posted an interview with House Floor Leader Steve Tilley answering reporters questions about some of the legislation that may be brought up during this final week.

The laughable idea of a casino spending $8 million in an effort to “help schools”

Despite the fact that efforts to remove the loss limit have failed since its passage, the casinos keep trying to find new ways to expand gambling. We previously reported that the coalition of casinos was confident that they submitted enough signatures to place an initiative to remove Missouri’s $500 loss limit on the general election ballot in November. The St Louis Post Disptch is reporting that Pinnacle alone plans to spend $8 million on the petition. They hope the public will buy into the idea that this issue is about the helping the schools. The Kansas City Business Journal explained:

Hundreds of educators from throughout the state, businesspeople and concerned Missouri residents support the Schools First initiative, spokeswoman Anne Marie Moy said.

However, the Kansas City Business Journal explained just how much of a red herring this argument really is:

“The title is very suggestive of how deceptive they can be,” said Joseph Day, research director for CasiNO Watch Inc., based in Chesterfield, Mo. “It should be called Yes for Casinos. They know the only way they can get it done is by offering money to schools.”

An April 15 report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission lists the campaign contributors as Ameristar ($835,700), which has a Kansas City casino, and Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. ($592,000), which has a St. Louis casino and two others proposed for St. Louis County and Wyandotte County in Kansas.

“If this initiative was actually supported by schools, it would be funded by schools,” [Day] said. “It’s not fair to hold hostage students and their funding to gambling dollars.”

The truth of the mater is the casinos believe that a potential expansion in Kansas could lower their profits and they are looking for any way to expand gambling to secure their piece of the pie. Unfortunately for the casinos, removal of the loss limit wont bring those gamblers who will choose to go to Kansas back to Missouri because there are alternative reasons why gamblers choose one casino over another. The Missouri Gaming Commission’s own Market Survey explained those qualities and the least important factor was the loss limit. More importantly, the top factors are access time and distance of a casino, the quantity of slot machines and the quality of bars and restaurants.

Don’t think that removing the loss limit will make those gamblers come back to Missouri because if they leave in the first place, it will be for reasons other that the loss limits. And don’t think this issue is about helping the schools because that is simply laughable.

Missouri’s Loss Limit Keeps the Criminal Element Out…Again!

There are many reasons to support Missouri’s $500 loss limit, however, one of the most overlooked and forgotten reasons for its support is because it is an effective tool for law enforcement officials. The loss limit provides Missourians with unique protection from organized crime and money laundering.

A perfect example of such protections comes from the St Louis Post Dispatch. They reported the story of man who stole $1.6 million from investors in a pyramid scheme and then later robbed at least three banks when the money went dry. What’s interesting to note is that the man made rounds at the casinos in both Atlantic City and the Casino Queen in East St Louis.

He was caught in Kentucky robbing banks and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering, was sentenced to five years in prison and he was ordered to pay $3 million in restitution.

Because of Missouri’s loss limit he was unable to launder any of the money through our casinos and was forced to take his criminal behavior across the boarder and out of our state.


POLICY BRIEF: For more information on how the loss limit helps curb crime please read our policy brief entitled “Loss limits and law enforcement: How Missouri is uniquely protected” and check out all of our policy briefs at Or you can simply listen to the audio version of this Policy Brief below.

Kansas’ Difference Without Distinction

There has been plenty of criticism over Kansas’ decision to “own” state gambling and allow private business to run the operations.  However, recent developments involving slots and racetracks show exactly why such criticism is completely justified.  Rick Alm of the Kansas City Star explains why Wichita businessman Phil Ruffin pulled the plug on running slots at his dog track:

Ruffin, the owner of the Camptown dog track in Frontenac, Kan., said the state’s 40 percent tax bite on race track slots didn’t leave enough cash flow to turn a fair profit.

Ruffin said the final straw in negotiations came last week with the state’s insistence Ruffin pay the entire $12 million in estimated costs to purchase, install and operate the track’s proposed 600 electronic games that technically would be owned by the state.

“Making me pay for the slots put us over the edge,” he said.  Despite state “ownership,” Ruffin said Kansas isn’t willing to pay for gambling equipment, share advertising costs or absorb any other construction or operational expenses.

The story goes on to explain that the Woodlands in Kansas City, KS may also make the same decision despite a long desire to bring slots to their track:

“We have to be very, very careful and make sure we’re doing the right thing,” Woodlands executive Larry Seckington said Monday.

“We’re going to decide if it’s economically viable for us,” said Seckington. “It’s very close. If the numbers come back so bad that it looks like a total loss for us, it would be difficult to move forward.”

Its quite clear that KS is not really owning anything but the profits if they don’t purchase the equipment, market their product or absorb any expenses related to doing business.  The Kansas City Star is also reporting the that this argument is being presented in front of the Kansas Supreme Court:

In questioning the constitutionality of the law, the attorney general argued Kansas would “own” the apparatus of legalized gambling despite the fact it would hold title to no land, build or finance no buildings nor purchase slot machines or other gambling equipment or supplies.

“The right to own and operate those casinos will be sold to the highest bidders, with the state doing nothing more than collecting tax revenue and enacting regulations,” it said.

This simply feeds the belief that the only reason local governments make legal a practice that has been criminalized for over a hundred years is because they want in on the cut.  The Kansas legislature must think this method of “ownership” justifies such exorbitant taxes on gambling but it’s a difference without distinction.  States need to find better ways to balance their budgets and cut spending because it is disgraceful that they keep pushing the idea of making losers of its people to bring in a few more bucks.

MO Gaming Commissioners Reappointed by Senate Committee

This morning in Jefferson City the Senate Committee on Gubernatorial Appointments meet to appoint and reappoint several individuals to state boards and commissions. Among those seeking the approval of the committee were two reappointments to the Missouri Gaming Commission. As stated in the hearing schedule for the committee the commissioners being reconsidered for a new term were:

Darryl T. Jones, Democrat, as a member of the Missouri Gaming Commission (Bray)

Noel J. Shull, Republican, as a member of the Missouri Gaming Commission (Ridgeway)

The committee moved to approve all the appointments and reappointments, including Commissioners Jones and Shull. MO Gaming Commissioners serve three-year terms.

downfall of lottery winners

From Family News in Focus by Karen Johnson:

When it comes to winning the lottery, be careful what you wish for. A Florida multimillion dollar lottery winner in 1990 has died, leaving a wretched financial legacy.

Alex Toth was broke from spending his winnings years ago on luxuries, his marriage had broken up, and he was charged with federal tax fraud.

Plopping down hard-earned cash for a chance at getting lucky in the lotto is a 17 billion dollar-a-year scam for the 48 states with legalized gambling. Chad Hills of Focus on the Family Action says Toth’s story is actually quite common.

“It’s not unusual to hear them say I wish I had never won at all because it’s been a curse in my life.”

Bill Pomery is a Certified Financial Planner in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Three of his biggest clients are lottery winners. He’s seen how front end euphoria can cause financial forgetfulness.

“Most of them need additional liability insurance, additional life insurance.”

The winner will start hearing from aunts, uncles and third cousins he never knew he had.

“The family starts calling and they end up paying off their boats and their cars and their houses.”

Paul Golden of the National Endowment for Financial Education says the largess leads to one more percentage.

“We talking about 70% will lose their windfall within just a few years.”

The lottery preys on the poor, who have no idea how to handle that type of money.

“People who live at poverty or at lower income levels spend proportionately more of their income on lottery tickets than do people in the middle class or the upper class because the lottery is in the business of selling hope.”

Utah and Hawaii are the only two states where gambling is illegal.

“…he was glad we had stopped him.”

The Harrow Times, out of the UK, is reporting just how troubling a gambling addiction can become. They point to an armed robber who stole almost £100,000 to fund his gambling addiction. Unfortunately, this is all too common as those with gambling addiction often turn to crime to fund their problem. The Harrow Times explains just how desperate this gambler was:

Detective Sergeant Mark O’Shaughnessy, of the Met’s Flying Squad, said: “This was a desperate man, who was robbing banks as the only way to fund his gambling addiction.

“When he was caught, he admitted to all the other robberies, and said he was glad we had stopped him.”