Letters to the Editor
St. Louis Business Journal
June 20 to 26, 2003
by Mark Andrews
Chairman, Casino Watch, Inc.
Your complaint last week that "the business community has backed away from endorsing any revenue measures, even the one that wouldn't hurt anyone - lifting the loss limits on gambling operations" is way off base. Businesses know by experience how Missouri's 60,000 problem gamblers can hurt their operations and the families they employ. We've all seen too many reports of embezzlement, bankruptcy, criminal prosecution and family destruction. And ultimately, the hurt not borne by businesses and families results in costs to taxpayers.
Many voters had businesses in mind when, in 1992, they approved casinos in Missouri only if they were restricted to cruises on rivers with a $500 loss limit per cruise. Reason: to keep the problems resulting from gambling in check. Ten years of lobbying by casinos has removed all restrictions except the loss limit. Experts in the field of gambling addiction treatment credit Missouri as having a unique and wise approach to controlling the all too common destructiveness of gambling.
If "$100 million in new revenue" is raised as you suggest, the casinos will have fleeced Missourians of an additional $500 million! That would put money lost at casinos up to $2 billion per year, money that could otherwise be spent to bolster our economy.
A 2001 study by two economists, Grinols and Mustard, from the Universities of Georgia and Illinois, suggest through their method of calculating the cost of casino gambling in the U.S., that Missouri's annual cost may easily be $800 million. The costs they enumerate are crime, suicide, bankruptcy, courts, prosecution, etc. Even if casino taxes to state government were $300 million, the costs far outweigh the income. No business can operate with a negative bottom line, and government shouldn't either.
Plenty of bills have been offered in Jefferson City this Session to remove the loss limit. And why haven't they gone anywhere? Because lawmakers have done their homework on the economics of casino gambling and honor the vote of the people back in 1992. Missouri stands alone in its laws to protect businesses and taxpayers from runaway addiction costs.
I always admire and enjoy the Business Journal, but this time I'd be hard pressed to put my money alongside your opinion. Increased gambling in Missouri will hurt individuals, families, businesses and taxpayers.
Mark Andrews, Chairman
Casino Watch, Inc.