Debbie and John's Letters to the Missouri Senate
The Cost of Removing the $500 Loss Limit is Too High

Dear Senator:

Along with my husband (who has written separately) I am disappointed
that I could not personally offer testimony at the hearing on SB430
that took place two weeks ago. We did not get word of the hearing in
time to make the trip from Kansas City. Rest assured, this matter is
personally important enough to my family and me that we would have
made every effort to do so.

When you vote on SB430, please consider the devastation and despair
that gambling has caused our family. I know that gambling will
probably never "go away" so instead, my focus is on what can be done
to minimize the harm that gambling has, is currently and undoubtedly
will continue to cause in the future. One such way that the harm can
be tempered is to keep the loss limit in place.

As you, along with other lawmakers read our story, I plead with you
from the bottom of my heart to consider the more than 60,000 families
in Missouri alone who are adversely and severely devastated due to a
loved one's addiction to gambling. By the grace of God, my husband
is no longer gambling and we have recovered emotionally, financially
and physically from depths that no one would ever want to reach. I
guess it would be easy to just sit back and be thankful that we,
unlike most, are back to living a "normal" life. Please know that I
am pleading with you on behalf of other families and individuals to
look beyond the surface of what seemingly is a good scholarship
program and to look at the great harm and further destruction that
will be caused by removing the loss limit.

Is the additional revenue that will be raised by removing the loss
limit worth more than the additional destruction that will surely
follow? At what cost is the government ? my government ? willing to
sacrifice in exchange for additional funding from the casinos? How
many suicides is this additional funding worth? How many divorces;
how much family violence? How many bankruptcies? How much crime by
otherwise upstanding citizens has to be committed before the cost is
too high? A fair and impartial reflection into the absolute
destruction and travesty that gambling caused on our family alone
should be enough to make anyone realize that gambling is not just
"harmless entertainment" even with the loss limits in place. God
forbid the level of destruction that will occur without such
limitations.

Sincerely yours,
Debbie Clayton

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Dear Senator:

My name is John Clayton. Just like many of you who will read
my letter, I am a grandson, son and brother; a husband and father; a
friend. Unlike many of you, I am one of the increasing number of
persons in this country, but more relevantly in this state, to suffer
from a devastating and demoralizing addiction to casino gambling. I
respectfully and genuinely request that you consider my experience
and my story when contemplating the enactment of Senate Bill 430 or
any other legislation to remove the "loss limit" currently in place.

The purpose of my letter today is not to try and convince anyone that
gambling should be illegal; nor is it my goal to criticize or condemn
those who support legalized gaming in our state. Rather, I am here
simply to offer my personal story (which is available in a separate
document as written together by my wife and me.) It is my hope that
I can personalize to you the dire consequences that gambling can,
does and will continue to have on individuals, on people who have
entrusted you to act in their best interests.

Please act in the best interests of your constituents ? your
grandchildren, your children, your siblings, your spouse, your
friends – in opposing Senate Bill 430 creating the "Smart Start
Scholarship Program". While I am certainly a proponent of higher
education, this bill as proposed is simply a guise to allow the
repeal of the maximum loss limit of $500.00 per individual player per
gambling "excursion".

Let's face it – the crux of the matter is whether or not it is in the
best interests of the citizens of the State of Missouri to remove the
loss limit, which was put in place at the outset of legislation
allowing for legalized gambling in Missouri. Certainly the reasoning
and purpose of the loss limit has not changed. On the contrary, the
growing number of addictive and problem gamblers only strengthens
such reasoning.

As one who gambled well above my means for more than 8 years (from
1993 to 2001), I can personally confirm that the existence of the
loss limit often times "cramped my style" during my years as a
compulsive gambler in the various casinos throughout this state. My
"style" after only a few years was to "play big to win big". The
problem with that approach was that I did not have the financial
means to do so. Even as an attorney, making an income that would
certainly place me in the upper-middle to upper income class, I could
not afford to lose $500 dollars per day, much less $500 every two
hours at the casino. An overwhelming majority of those gambling at
the casino have even less "means" than I had at the time. What the
loss limit did do was to broaden the amount of time in which my money
would disappear. While the loss limit did not lessen my addiction to
gambling, it most certainly lessened the amount of money that I could/
would lose in a given day. There were many times that I had to quit
gambling for the day ? not because I didn?t have a strong urge to
continue gambling, but rather because I did not have the time to wait
an hour and a half or an hour to be able to obtain more tokens or
chips. The loss limit served its purpose ? the effect of my
addiction was lessened.

Something else to which I can personally attest is that without the
loss limit in place, my family would have lost our home, our cars and
other possessions, which by the grace of God we did not lose. The
amount of money that I embezzled in order to sustain my gambling
addiction would have been significantly greater. My desire to commit
suicide would most likely have been heightened and quite possible
executed had the amounts of money lost been more devastating than
they already were. As a general rule, we are already a debt ridden
society – shouldn't the government be encouraging financial
responsibility and self control not irresponsibility. If the purpose
of legalized casino gambling is entertainment value, then no
reasonable and responsible person would or should spend more than
$500 for 2 hours of "entertainment". To encourage or even allow a
person to do so is not responsible government. If the loss limit is
removed, only a small group of entrepreneurs (the multi-billion
dollar casino industry) and the government are enriched. The removal
of the loss limit only exploits the gambling addict ? at the expense
of their families, employers and others involved in their lives.

Lastly, please know that my gambling addiction first took hold on the
blackjack tables, then the craps tables, followed by quarter slots
and video poker and ended with the dollar and five dollar slots and
video poker. Why the progression to video games? It was the action
and speed of the machines that most satisfied my increasing desire
for that adrenaline rush. The hypnotic effect, visual stimuli, the
repetitive pattern of betting and instant outcome offered me a
complete withdrawal into my own fantasy world that other gaming did
not seem to do. When I was winning, I would sit for hours (sometimes
12-14 hours at a time) playing hand after hand of video poker. I was
truly hypnotized by the machine. What the loss limit provided was a
break from that hypnotic trance ? an unwelcome break for the addict,
but a protective break that I am now thankful existed.

Shouldn't our government be committed to promoting public good rather
than teaming with the self-serving interests of the casino industry
in luring its own citizens to gamble more, to risk more and in the
case of the addict to hasten the inevitable destruction that awaits
its prey? Certainly suicide, divorce, family violence, personal and
corporate bankruptcy, and the crimes committed by the gambling addict
are not in the public's best interest. Everyone would be outraged,
and certainly not many members of our state government would even
consider a committee hearing to tax or otherwise collect revenues
from drug dealers under the premise of increasing funding for
education or some other "public good". Why should this similarly
addictive and destructive vice be viewed any differently?

As a father of four who will someday be in college, I strongly urge
you to enact scholarship programs and grants to make their college
education more affordable in the future. However, I urge you to do
so in stand-alone legislation. My personal experience suggests that
the cost of tying such legislation to a removal of the loss limit (or
otherwise to gaming at all) is much too high.

Respectfully yours,
John Clayton

Debbie and John's Story
A Young Lawyer and His Family's Struggle with Gambling Addiction