CasiNO Watch Report
May 25, 2004
2004 MISSOURI LEGISLATIVE SESSION
Mark Andrews, Chairman
When 6 p.m. finally came on May 14, 2004, the Missouri House of Representatives and Senate immediately came to a screeching halt. Some were glad it came to an end while others wanted time for more legislation to pass. Mark Andrews and Sam Murrell of Casino Watch gathered their working papers and headed for home. The $500 Loss Limit was still in tact!
The removal of the Loss Limit was the main objective for this Session from the casinos and their lobbyists. They started off with a bang when three bills were prefiled in the Senate, SB707 by Sen. Mathewson, SB863 by Sen. Dougherty, and SB 721 by Sen. Jacob. All three of these senators are veteran lawmakers and were dedicated to powering these bills through for the governor.
In addition to these bills having momentum when the Session opened on January 8, the Associated Industries of Missouri added their own fuel to the fire. They commissioned St. Louis University to study casinos in Missouri to see how financially strong they were. Subsequently, they issued their report concluding that Missouri's casinos were not doing well at all and needed to have the Loss Limit removed so they could make more money thus assuring their continued existence.
So, Casino Watch had their work cut out from the day the Session opened. The Governor, the casinos, and 20 some lobbyists all wanted the Loss Limit removed because it would mean an additional $240,000,000 for the casinos and $60,000,000 for the State. (Of course, for this to happen, the people of Missouri would lose another $300,000,000 annually!)
The Session opened with Mark and Sam walking the halls of the Capitol almost every day talking to legislators about the importance of keeping the Loss Limit in place. Little by little we found those who were on our side and persuaded others to join in. When it came time for the Senate Bills to be considered in Sen. Vogel's Ways and Means Committee, Sam and Mark both testified against their passage along with several other allies. Perhaps the most compelling testimony given that day came from John and Debbie Clayton of Springfield, MO. John is a lawyer and recovering pathological gambler who is supported 100% in his battle by his wife Debbie and their church. As they told their story of how gambling destroyed his career and their family, and explained how much worse it would be with the Loss Limit removed, you could see their credibility take effect. All the momentum seemed to stop right there, and when they left the hearing room, the press followed them out the door to get what turned out to be the story of the day! (The Clayton's Story can be found on the Casino Watch website.)
A few events followed:
1) The House of Representatives let it be known early on that they would not support any new tax burden on the people of Missouri. Leadership throughout the House was always on hand whenever the subject came up. Even the Senate knew that if they passed a bill to remove the Loss Limit and sent it to the House, it would just come back with NO written on it!
2) The Joint Committee on Gaming and Wagering traditionally makes recommendations to the lawmakers about casino legislation they think is important. The Committee listened to a presentation of the St. Louis University Study on casinos in Missouri, but didnt believe its conclusions. The Chairman stated that he didn't think anyone in the room believed Missouri casinos to be in the bad state of condition reported in the Study. As a result, the Committee made no recommendation to the General Assembly on the removal of the Loss Limit.
3) The Senate bills never came out of committee due to the strong testimonials in opposition and the fact that the House stood firm!
Then Sen. Childers's bill, SB787, came along with a companion bill in the House by Rep. Dennis Wood. These bills if passed would require that a vote of approval be taken in any county before a city in that county can build a casino. Specifically, a vote would have to be taken in Taney County (Branson) before a casino could be approved for Rockaway Beach. (There is a plan to begin building a casino in Rockaway Beach next year if approved by voters in November of this year.)
Casino Watch testified in favor of these bills. However, when SB787 was brought up for discussion on the floor of the Senate, Senators Dougherty and Mathewson immediately added amendments to remove the $500 Loss Limit! Enough Senators complained about this maneuver that before any vote was taken, SB787 was placed back on the informal calendar. And although a number of people tried to bring it back for consideration, time ran out. Taney County will not be given the opportunity to vote on the casino proposed for Rockaway Beach, 12 miles from Branson.
The bill Casino Watch most wanted to pass this year was Sen. Loudon's SB926. John Loudon has tried for many years now to pass a bill that would authorize a study to be undertaken in Missouri on the social cost of casino gambling. It follows on the heels of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission's recommendation to conduct thorough studies on the cost of gambling before adding casinos in a given State. With Missouri's current budget problems, this bill never got a lot of support, but we are optimistic that it might make it next year.
So, the Legislative year is now over and our attention turns to St. Louis, St. Louis County, Jefferson County and Rockaway Beach. Can you believe seven more active casino proposals in Missouri? Stay tuned for more news this summer about the November ballot to again change our Constitution which would authorize a casino on yet another river.
SEE BELOW FOR MORE INFORMATION ON
URGENT ALERT FROM CASINO WATCH
On Friday, the Missouri Senate attached an amendment
to REMOVE THE $500 LOSS LIMIT.
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