Monthly Archives: September 2008

The connection between Prop. A and more suicides

One of the biggest problems with Proposition A is that it removes the enforcement mechanism necessary for enforcing Missouri’s self-ban list.  With no enforcement mechanism in place, gamblers who lack the control to stay away from casinos will be able to simply walk right on to the casino floor.  The results of problem and pathological gambling are tragic and can lead numerous problems and Missouri was the first state to implement a self-ban, known as the Disassociated Persons List.  A new study published in the September issue of Psychology and Aging, published by the American Psychological Association. has examined why people placed themselves on Missouri’s self-ban lists and the results are shocking:

Researchers Lia Nower, JD, PhD, of the Rutgers University Center for Gambling Studies, and Alex Blaszczynski, Ph.D. of the University of Sydney, Australia, looked at 1,601 self-described problem gamblers who asked between 2001 and 2003 to be banned from Missouri casinos. The results of their study were published in the September issue of Psychology and Aging, published by the American Psychological Association.

Older adults – over age 55 in this study — reported gambling an average of 17 years before “self-exclusion” – more than twice the length of time reported by younger adults. All participants were asked to cite the main reason or reasons why they sought to be barred from casinos. Younger, middle-aged and older adults all gave as the primary reasons gaining control, needing help and hitting rock bottom. However, nearly 14 percent of older adults surveyed – a higher proportion than any other group – indicated they sought help because they wanted to prevent themselves from committing suicide.

Prop A is DANGEROUS for Missourians as it will clearly open the door for problem and pathological gamblers to simply walk into the casino and by their own admission, this could lead to Missourians losing their lives to suicide.

Its never been about schools…it is all about a massive, monopolistic expansion of gambling

The supposed coalition that once called themselves “Yes for Schools First” and now “Yes on A”, is looking to expand their efforts to secure the half a billion dollar gambling expansion they are selling as an effort to support Missouri schools.  Casino Watch reported that two casinos, Ameristar and Pinnacle, are responsible for virtually ever dollar of support for the ballot initiative as the two had already invested millions of dollars into the campaign and the few remaining support dollars came from the Missouri Gaming Associating, the lobbying group for the casino industry.  If this issue is all about the schools then why, up to that point, was it entirely driven, from start to finish, by the casinos industry, not the school industry?  But with new ethics reports available, there would surely be a large amount of financial backing and support from the schools systems right?  Wrong.  Once again, this great coalition of those looking out for schools is solely the casino industry.  The Turner Report explains:

Forget Kenny Hulshof and Jay Nixon.

The big money in the 2008 November general election is coming from two casinos attempting to push a measure going before Missouri voters that would remove loss limits and eliminate competition.

Both casinos gave $1,787,500 to the Yes on A Coalition, for a total of $3,575,000, according to 48-hour reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission. Pinnacle Entertainment made its contribution Sept. 2 while the Ameristar Casino money came on Sept. 8.

Though the committee made early claims about widespread support from educators, all of the money to support the measure comes from Ameristar Casinos and Pinnacle Entertainment.

In a time when the economy is slowing, when discretionary income is shrinking because of high gas and fuel prices and when other states and major gambling centers like Vegas and Atlantic City are seeing huge drops in revenue, Missouri casinos managed to take away a record $1.6 billion from Missouri families and other businesses last year. This amazing feat was accomplished with a $500 loss limit.  The casinos believe if the loss limit is removed they will take in an additional HALF A BILLION dollars, which represents a 33% expansion of gambling in Missouri.  With the proposed cap, they are attempting to monopolize the market so only they have access to Missouri families hard earned dollars.  So I ask you:  Is this all about the schools, or is it a massive, monopolistic expansion of gambling?

Another reason why Prop A is dangerous for Missouri minors

Proposition A, lead by the casino funded Yes on A coalition, seeks to not only eliminate the $500 loss limit, but it also looks to eliminate the requirement to check casino patrons identification. It seems the casinos don’t want to limit anyone from entering the gaming floor including criminals, those on the self-ban list and even minors.  Actually, the casinos want the floor to be so open that they go beyond just removing the identification check, Prop A seeks to remove any future identification technology.  This is very dangerous and problematic for our youth.

As Casino Watch has explained, by the age of 20, half of Missouri’s youth has already gambled. A vote for Prop A means a vote to open the gambling floor to minors.  The casino industry would have you believe that they can spot underage gambling, but the truth is there are countless examples of kids not only making it on the gambling floor, but also gambling.  One shocking story comes from Philly News online:

Gambling regulators have cited Harrah’s Chester Casino for allowing a child on the casino floor.  The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board last week fined the casino $20,000 for allowing a 14-year-old girl on the casino floor in March of this year. Board spokesman Richard McGarvey said the girl got onto the floor, gambled, and cashed in the winnings before being caught.

Fortunately, this child was caught on the way out of the casino, but she gamble and cashed in her winnings.  There are so many more examples, including Australia, where its reported that as much as 10% of parents and guardians are caught with children on the gambling floor. Sadly, these are just the examples of those who eventually got caught.  So many more make it in and out with out ever getting caught.  Removing the loss limit removes the boarding pass and a valid ID must be shown to obtain a boarding pass.  This is the only way to guarantee that everyone’s ID is checked and the most effective means of preventing underage gambling.

Another example of why MO shouldn’t remove the loss limit

There are currently over 12,000 people on the Missouri Disassociated Persons List (DAP).  These people voluntarily chose to exclude themselves from casinos because in most cases they are compulsive and addicted gamblers.  Its obvious these people are unable to simply stop gambling at the casino or they would not have gone through the lengthy and exhaustive process of putting themselves on this self-exclusion list.

This list is enforceable because each patron must show identification and obtain a boarding pass to enter a Missouri casino.  If a person is on the DAP, then the computer systems the casinos use to monitor boarding and chip buy-ins will alert casino employees.  This system keeps over 12,000 people from entering the casino and gambling.

The Yes for Casino First Initiative, now known as Proposition A, seeks to remove the $500 loss limit and prevent any future identification technologies. Once gamblers are allowed to enter the casino floor and purchase chips without having to show an ID or swipe a boarding pass there will be absolutely no check on the DAP.  If the loss limit is removed 12,000 compulsive and problem gamblers will have instant access to the casinos and will relive the tragedies that compulsive gambling brings.

Casino Watch empirically demonstrated this problem when we reported on the situation in Canada.  They have a self-ban list but have no means of identifying those on the list other than facial recognition.  Their gaming officials said it was impossible to track over a thousand people by remembering their faces alone and they are currently involved in a class-action lawsuit.  Missouri has twelve times as many people on our list.  Another empirical example comes from WSBT News in Indiana.  They are reporting that the Harrison County casino has agreed to pay a fine of $59,000 for allowing a gambler who was on the self-ban list to gamble in the casino.  WSBT explains:

The Indiana Gaming Commission said the gambler had signed up for the state’s Voluntary Exclusion Program, which requires the person’s agreement not to wager at casinos.  Although Indiana’s casinos are instructed to refuse to allow anyone in the program to gamble, state investigators determined the gambler visited the casino nine times during a two-month period and was provided a free hotel room based on his wagering.

Horseshoe spokeswoman Judy Hess said Friday that casino officials regret the violations and are coaching employees to try to avoid such mistakes in the future. But she said gamblers who sign up for the voluntary exclusion program can sometimes be hard to catch.

She is exactly right.  With no system in place beyond attempts to recognize someone’s picture, it’s simply impossible to enforce a self-exclusion list as evidenced by a patron visiting the casino NINE times in two month while receiving comps. Obviously if the loss limit is removed we will lose the ability to track those who so desperately reached out for help.


Related Information:

Policy Brief: Missouri’s $500 Loss Limit:. How it helps compulsive gamblers

Casino interests change committee name

From Randy Turner of The Turner Report:

The Yes for Schools First Committee is a thing of the past.

Missouri Ethics Commission documents filed Aug. 21 show the committee pushing for the removal of loss limits and the elimination of competition for casinos has changed its name to Yes on A Coalition.

The committee is pushing the passage of Proposition A, the so-called Schools First Initiative in November.

Though the casino interests are trying to sell Missourians on this proposition by linking it with schools, I described the effort this way in the May 3 Turner Report:

One of the biggest fictions that continues to be foisted upon the public is the idea that gambling money can solve all of the problems with school funding.

According to the advertising when Missourians approved a state lottery, that money was going to save the schools. Of course, the money was never designated for the schools, but was placed in general revenue. If the money had been targeted to schools, undoubtedly legislators would have cut the amount going into education from general revenue.

Every few years, those who want to increase gambling in this state, use education as a way to overcome resistance to the idea…and it is happening again.

The gambling interests never use names like “More Gambling in Missouri” or “A Sucker Born Every Minute” for their “grass roots” groups. The latest one, registered with the Missouri Ethics Commission on Dec. 21, 2007, is the Yes for Schools First Coalition.

The Coalition, which has been operating under the radar since that time (except for Arch City Chronicle and some in the blogosphere) appears to have landed enough signatures to allow Missourians to vote on removing loss limits from casinos, purportedly to pour those extra dollars into education.

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.

This was the news release issued by the coalition Friday:

The YES for Schools First Coalition today submitted to the Missouri Secretary of State more than 160,000 voter signatures on petitions for the Schools First Initiative – far more than the approximately 92,000 signatures required to place the initiative on the November 2008 statewide ballot.

“We’re pleased that Missouri voters have shown strong support for our measure,” said the group’s spokesperson, Anne Marie Moy. “The Schools First Initiative provides vitally needed new funds to Missouri schools by increasing the state taxes paid by casinos. It prohibits the legislature from using the casino taxes dedicated to education for any other purpose. It also protects thousands of local jobs and our state economy, by ensuring that Missouri casinos can compete for visitors on an equal basis with casinos in neighboring states.”

The Schools First Initiative will provide more than $100 million per year in new funds for elementary and secondary schools statewide by increasing the state tax paid by riverboat casinos to 21% and by eliminating Missouri’s $500 loss limit. The measure requires annual audits by the State Auditor to ensure that all casino tax revenues dedicated to education are used only for school funding and are not used to replace or supplant other education funds.

By eliminating Missouri’s outdated loss limit, which no other state imposes, the initiative will ensure that Missouri can compete for casino visitors on a level playing field. The initiative also prevents oversaturation of the in-state casino market by limiting the number of Missouri casinos to those already built or under construction.

The Schools First Initiative is supported by the YES for Schools First Coalition, which includes Missouri teachers and parents, and community and business leaders. The initiative also is endorsed by the Missouri Gaming Association, the organization which represents all casino companies operating in Missouri.

Reading the news release reminded me of the infamous Lamar con artist James R. Montgomery, who attempted to run a canned food drive, allegedly to benefit the needy, and advertised that he would have a particular church and the Boy Scouts helping him. The Lamar Police Department checked and found the school had nothing to do with the drive and neither did the Scouts. When I questioned him about the drive, he said it was all a misunderstanding. He never said the church was involved with the drive, just some church members, and he had never mentioned the Boy Scouts participating, just some members of the Boy Scouts. The canned food drive was canceled.

In this case, the coalition claims to consist of Missouri teachers and parents, but the coalition’s website does not contain any evidence of that.

From its name, the Schools First initiative sounds like an answer to all of our problems of education funding, but when you pull the curtain aside, this is a welfare proposal for the gambling industry.

Woman abandons kids in car while gambling in MO casino

Casino Watch has reported some very tragic statistics regarding child neglect and abandonment when parents choose to leave their children locked in vehicles while they enter a casino to gamble.  We hoped to never have to report that such tragedy has happened in our state.  Unfortunately, as with all of gambling’s terrible devastation; it’s just a matter of time.  KFVS12 Heartland News reports:

A 56-year-old Texas woman decides to go gambling and that decision costs her.
Police say Glenia Roberts of Rock Port, Texas went into the Lady Luck Casino Saturday and left her granddaughters, ages (13) and seven, in the car.  When she came back out, the car was gone. Officers say the older girl apparently drove away.  Authorties (sic) found the car and the two girls at a nearby park. Roberts pleaded guilty Monday to child endangerment charges. She will serve two days of shock jail time and received a one year jail sentence. The two children are back with family members in Texas.

This woman not only left the children in the car, she left the keys in the car for a 13-year-old girl to drive away.  We are truly grateful that so many more people were not hurt during this incident as it’s not hard to imagine the kind of damage a 13-year-old behind the wheel could have caused.

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.