Casino Watch Focus has reported many times that even though casino gambling is legal in Missouri, the legislature has taken many steps to safeguard its citizens from the dangers of gambling. The Legislature successfully prevented all legislative attempts at removing a unique safeguard, the $500 loss limit, which essentially caped the amount of money that was able to be gambled and lost at one time. The loss limit and other safeguards existed until the casino industry waged an expensive ballot initiative that removed it. One past legislator, who was known for accepting large amount of money from the casino industry and in turn, proposing countless bills to remove these safeguards, was Rep. Shannon Cooper. His replacement, Rep. Scott Largent, appears to have picked up where Rep. Cooper left off. The St. Louis Post Dispatch is reporting that Rep. Largent has managed to get an amendment into a bill that would allow loans at casinos. This move appears to be politically unfavorable to his colleagues and it creates serious pitfalls for problem gamblers:
House Financial Institutions Committee added the change onto a banking bill Wednesday with no debate. Committee members endorsed it by a 13-1 vote, sending the measure to the full House after the Rules Committee approves it.
Gamblers who pass a credit check would be able to borrow money and exchange it for electronic tokens and chips for wagering.
Jamilah Nasheed, a St. Louis Democrat, said lawmakers should try to help protect problem gamblers from themselves. Nasheed voted for the bill but now says she would have voted “no” if she had known what the amendment did.
“I made a mistake,” Nasheed said. “I don’t think gamblers should take out loans. You have gamblers who are addicted. It hurts their family. They lose their property. The divorce rate is high.”
Passage in the House would send the bill to the Senate, which has been less inclined to pass gambling bills. In fact, the sponsor of the underlying bill, Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, wasn’t unhappy to learn of the credit amendment.
Casino Gambling was originally passed in 1992 with multiple safeguards in place. The original plan was to simply allow a short, two-hour riverboat cruise on the Missouri or Mississippi river, which would allow for select and controlled gambling. Now, virtually every aspect of what Missouri citizens originally voted for has been stripped clean, leaving full-blown casino gambling, on land, with no loss limits. This bill would remove one of the last safeguards and expose Missouri families to serious gambling problems. The Post Dispatch continues:
The credit ban was also part of the original law. Under the bill, customers would have to qualify for a line of credit of at least $5,000. Bill proponents say that would weed out those with gambling addictions and others who couldn’t afford to go into debt to gamble. But critics say casinos entice people to wager more than they can afford. “Any time you make it easier for people who have gambling problems to increase their debt, then you make the problem worse for them,” said Keith Spare of the Missouri Council on Problem Gambling Concerns.
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