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 CasinoWatch.org, 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  Now that those limitations have been repealed, it is likely that we will see this number build exponentially in an attempt to influence the legislature in removing the loss limit and expand gambling in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.

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