|The following article appeared on the front cover of the June 2001 issue of the St. Louis MetroVoice. Harold Hendrick is a minister at large in the St. Louis area, Director of Public Affairs for Christian radio station KSIV, talk show host of "Encounter" aired Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 3 p.m. and regular columnist for the St. Louis MetroVoice, St. Louis' Christian News and Events newspaper which reaches between 40 and 50,000 readers throughout the St. Louis metro areas and outlying communities. To reach Mr. Hendrick or to find out more about the St. Louis MetroVoice, call 314-965-5757.
Government and Gambling -- A Bad Marriage
Gambling officials pat each other on the back & squelch opposition in committee hearing.
News Analysis by Harold Hendrick
There is an extremely unhealthy marriage between gambling interests, state government and public officials in Missouri! On April 30th I attended a hearing of the Missouri Legislative Joint Committee on Gaming and Wagering in Jefferson City, chaired and presided over by State Representative Chris Liese (Democrat, St. Louis County District 85). What I heard and even more importantly -- what I wasn't allowed to hear -- was enough to turn my stomach.
First, representatives from the State Lottery testified. Apologetically they reported that they had had only modest growth as a result of their efforts to encourage more gambling losses through people buying lottery tickets. Defensively, they tried to explain why they hadn't done better. Apparently, hard times had set in and blamed the casinos and Internet gambling for their lack-luster performance. However, they went on to boast that they were ever on the job, working hard to produce more gambling losses. After all, they were now spending $8,250,000 a year on advertising to encourage people to lose their money.
Since poor and low-income people disproportionately buy lottery tickets, I wouldn't be surprised if the government, through its Lottery Commission, intensified their ad campaigns in low-income neighborhoods. Then they could produce even more gambling losses.
Next to testify was a member of the Horseracing Commission. A paramutual horseracing bill had just passed the House (by two votes) and now was before the Missouri Senate. The spokesperson was very hopeful of its passage in the Senate so that Missouri could be blessed by additional gambling losses. (Hope springs eternal.)
Finally, there was a presentation from the Missouri Gambling Commission, which is working hard for the proliferation of even more casinos in Missouri. They were judged to be the most successful of the state's joined-at-the-hip relationship with the gambling industry. Casinos had far outdone Missouri's other gambling enterprises in robbing from the poor to give to the rich. The glee of the Commission staff was hard to suppress. After all, weren't the casinos -- partnering with the state -- able to bleed about $1,000,000,000 per year (that's one billion with a "B") in gambling losses from the people. What more could you ask?
Let me tell you what more they could ask! How about more casinos? As you read this article, the casino industry and Missouri's Gambling Commission are in the process of opening new casinos in Booneville and LaGrange, and they're pressing hard to put another one in Kimmswick. They're pressing so hard in Kimmswick -- despite the fact that the good citizens of the town don't want a casino -- that they're trying to steal a man's property by using the "Eminent Domain" law against him in order to build their casino.
So, Missouri State government, along with a number of state agencies and many public officials, has developed a tragic and perverted mindset. The very entities that are assigned to protect our citizens from harm are, instead, committed to profiting from the exploitation of human weaknesses. Our state government and many of our elected officials have an adulterous relationship with the big gambling folks. In gambling matters, they are focused on greed and providing a horrible example for the next generation of young people. They have made state government to become addicted to gambling money. It is despicable!
Near the end of the meeting, I was sizzling but controlled. I was waiting for the chairman to call for a show of hands of those who wanted to testify against gambling when all of a sudden the gavel banged down ending the meeting. I was appalled. With my solid documentation in hand to support my anticipated comments, no one else was allowed to testify! Chairman Liese (who incidentally has sponsored legislation to allow even minors to gamble) had, with one strike of his gavel, silenced any opposing viewpoints from being expressed. The one sided hearing was little more than a pat on the back meeting for the pro-gambling supporters. Bureaucrats, whose jobs are dependent on the production of gambling losses, were given the whole two hours. Responsible opposition was skillfully suppressed, with no hint of fairness or balance being allowed, and no announcement of any future meetings.
I shouldn't have been surprised -- Missouri could do so much better!
In MetroVoice's November 2000 General Election Issue, Representative Liese told the voters of Missouri that he believed "Public officials should be held accountable to the highest of ethical and moral standards in their service to the public and in their personal lives." I couldn't agree more and believe Mr. Liese should be held accountable for the disgraceful, biased, unfair and unbalanced manner in which he conducted this alleged hearing. However, in fairness to Mr. Liese, there are a number of other public officials who should also be held accountable as well. Accountable for allowing gambling in Missouri in the first place and then helping to expand its evil grip on Missouri and destroy the lives of thousands of Missouri and Illinois citizens. Not to mention the economic havoc it inflicts by sending millions upon millions of dollars out of state to fill the coffers of out-of-state gambling companies. Yes indeed, Mr. Liese and his fellow pro-gambling public servants should be held accountable!
The fact of the matter is, Mr. Liese is hoping to have a new state senatorial district carved out of Senator John Loudon's district, thus giving him a shot at a Senate seat. If that happens I hope the voters will remember the way Mr. Liese conducted this meeting.
It is also my prayer that the good people of Kimmswick will be victorious in their fight against the establishment of a casino in their town. Kimmswick is a beautiful and historic river town which will be destroyed should the state succeed.