Testimony of Sr. Ruth Speh, SSND
I am Sister Ruth Speh, a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. I was a member of South County First; a group that opposed the granting of a casino license to any company or partnership that would operate in Lemay, Oakville, or Kimmswick.
I am sorry that the Commission decided to place a casino in Kimmswick, but that is not the reason why I have asked to speak to you today.
I am here today to correct the perception that a vast number of Lemay residents were in favor of the placement of a casino in our community. I also oppose any new attempts by the Futuresouth and Ameristar partners to place a casino in Lemay.
There have been many stories in the print and electronic media that have concluded that "Kimmswick does not want the casino but the people of Lemay did." Nothing could be further from the truth.
Tens of thousands of South County residents communicated with this Commission and its staff in opposition to a casino in Lemay.
I must commend you in treating our concerns with patience, fairness and respect for our viewpoint.
Unlike the pro-casino group that asked for a criminal investigation of your action on July 26, 2000, we were prepared for things to go against us. We never mistrusted the Commission or the staff's ability to act impartially or fairly. We were very pleased with your final decision not to place a casino in our community.
The opposition to casinos in South County was a massive grassroots movement that was motivated, organized and effective.
In the recent report conducted by Special Assistant Attorney General Larry D. Hale in response to Lemay On the Move's alleged charges of misconduct by the MGC, Mr. Hale stated, "Opposition to the Lemay project was continuous and visible. Opposition to the Kimmswick project was sporadic and less visible until AFTER the Gaming Commission's decision was announced." Hale noted that, "Consideration of community opposition was also a proper consideration of the Gaming Commission."
On June 28, 2000 I presented 5200 signatures of individuals who were willing to sign their names to oppose casino expansion in South St. Louis County to this Commission.
Local opposition groups to gambling expansion in Lemay did not have access to the unlimited funding and PR firms of Lemay on the Move and Ameristar but they outperformed them in citizen activism and resolve.
One opposition group, R.A.G.E. (Rally against Gambling Expansion) formed by Oakville housewife Denny Hettenhausen, organized a 40-day prayer vigil that involved 50 local churches and thousands of participants. R.A.G.E. also collected over 34,000 form letters and delivered them to the MGC and all our local elected officials.
According to a local congressional candidate, 59% of South County respondents opposed an expansion of gambling here when asked in the context of an extensive phone survey during June of 2000.
Lemay on the Move and Ameristar's past efforts to convince this Commission and the media that there is overwhelming support in Lemay for their casino project were inflated and misleading.
Now there are fresh rumors circulating that the Futuresouth partners are again mobilizing to restart their efforts to place a casino on the NL Industries site in Lemay should the Isle of Capri's Kimmswick project fail to be licensed.
As you know this site is less than 500 yards from the building we call our Motherhouse. This type of development would severely impact our way of life.
Our Motherhouse is a place of prayer and ministry. This is where we were trained and where we are sent out to do our work, to teach, to work with the elderly, the sick, the poor. Wherever we are needed, we are called to go. This is where we return after 50 or 60 years of service to wait out our last years in prayer and quiet meditation and this is where we will be buried. This House has been there for 106 years. We have four schools on our campus. It is not right to have a casino so close to the children that have been entrusted to us for their care and education.
Make no mistake; the opposition to a Lemay casino has not gone away. We are ready to stand against any efforts to revive the Futuresouth/Ameristar project. Our people have been informed of these new developments and are committed to begin the fight against a casino in Lemay.
The political leaders in St. Louis County Government have also changed since last year.
Our new 6th District Councilman John Campisi wants to develop the NL Industries site into a family oriented sports park. This type of project is compatible with our community's values.
A revived Futuresouth/Ameristar attempt for a gaming license will only obstruct and delay this needed economic development. But more importantly, it will again cause turmoil among the people of Lemay who are only now beginning to heal their wounds from the last casino fight.
Since Ameristar has one casino in the St. Louis region presently, why do they need another one? Wouldn't another casino give Ameristar an unfair portion of the local gaming market?
Let's not forget that Futuresouth/Ameristar funded and oversaw the operation of Lemay on the Move. This is the same group who accused this Commission of misconduct when they didn't get their way. Do they really deserve a reward for their false accusations?
Please don't make us go through this process all over again.
Please make it clear that the Commission will not award any more licenses in the South St. Louis County area.
We never wanted a casino and we will fight to stop one should this issue arise again.
I humbly ask you to please spare us from those who put profits before people.
There are enough gambling establishments in the St. Louis area. Please don't open another in Lemay. We have had enough upheaval in our community over this issue! Let us heal ourselves in peace.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today.
May God bless you and guide you in your important work for the people of Missouri.