May 4th was the deadline for submitting signatures for any initiative petition seeking ballot approval for this November’s election. As expected, the casino group has submitted what they believe to be the correct number of signatures for their petition to remove the $500 loss limit. A spokeswoman for the group was reported in the Columbia Tribune as saying they came in well above the 85,000 to 95,000 signatures turning in around 160,000 signatures.
As we previously reported, the casino-led initiative under the name “Yes for Schools First,” attempted to focus their signature pitch to unsuspecting Missourians on increased educational funding and not gambling expansion or removal of the $500 loss limit. The St. Louis Post Dispatch explains:
[W]hat’s interesting is that instead of focusing their pitch on the changes in the wagering laws – telling gamblers, for instance, that they would be able to spend as much as they want without having to tote an ID card around – the signatures gathers at Lumiere Place stuck to the same appeal about how the initiative would help education.
Labeling the effort “Yes for Schools First,” the casinos have sought to highlight the portion of the initiative that would increase states taxes – from 20 percent to 21 percent – on casino revenues.
This “schools first” initiative would at first glance seem to have garnered a broad base of support from the educational community but according to the Turner Report:
Since this is a coalition designed to bring funding to education, you might expect to see those with a stake in education- parents, teachers, administrators, education interest groups lining up to back this initiative.
Missouri Ethics Commission documents paint a different picture.
The coalition’s most recent disclosure report, filed April 15, shows $1,427,700 in contributions. Not one cent came from anyone associated with education. In fact, the funding came from only two sources- $835,700 from Ameristar Casinos and $592,00 from Pinnacle Entertainment.
At this point the signatures will be verified and pending approval of the Secretary of State, the issue will be placed on the ballot for a statewide vote. Given that this issue will go to a vote of the people there seems to be no reason why the Missouri Legislature should consider removing the loss limit this session.