From: CasiNO Watch, Inc., Mark Andrews, Chairman
GAMBLING REPORT ON THE MO LEGISLATIVE SESSION 2003
Dear Friend of Casino Watch:
The clock struck 6 p.m. last Friday night in Jefferson City without any pro casino bills passing! At five minutes until six, however, Senator Jacob had the floor and was making his loud objection that the Senate didn't even get a chance to vote this Session to remove Missouri's $500 Loss Limit at our 11 casinos. He and the Governor tried all Session to raise another $50 to $100 million on the backs of Missouri families by giving casinos this break, but just couldn't get the job done.
The story behind how the $500 Loss Limit was preserved in Missouri during this landmark session of the Missouri Legislature is the subject of this report. If you decide to fast forward to the end that's OK, but please first accept our sincere "thank you" for your concern, prayers, letters and phone calls. In particular, your phone calls to senators and representatives during April and May were a key factor in holding back the casino agenda. The church denominations that sent letters and made phone calls also had a significant impact. Without hearing from you they could have more easily thought that no one at home cared which could have been a real problem. Thank you all very much!
GOVERNOR HOLDEN WANTS THE $500 LOSS LIMIT REMOVED
As you may recall the Session started with the Governor's State of the State Speech in which he asked for new laws that would scrap our $500/two hour Loss Limit and raise taxes on the casinos by 2%. Almost immediately, several bills were introduced which proposed a cancellation of the Loss Limit. Casino Watch made its appearance at hearings on these bills, but so did the casinos who made the all too familiar plea to "remove the Loss Limit but don't raise our taxes". We knew this would be an important issue as the session moved forward, given the need for millions of dollars to solve the Governor's budget crisis.
RESEARCH INFORMATION USED TO GOOD ADVANTAGE
Casino Watch volunteers started right away burning the midnight oil, pulling together research from Missouri and around the country on why our loss limit laws work and why they should be preserved. After all, the people of Missouri put this restriction in place when voting to change our Constitution, and it was indeed a wise provision.
Their work confirmed that if this restriction were to be removed we could expect more crime, more addiction, more bankruptcy, more suicides, an increase in prostitution, money laundering, presence of organized crime figures, and more children at risk. The beauty of having all this research available was that hand outs could be developed for senators and representative to read on a daily basis. Again they did a fantastic job of preparing handouts on all these subjects which made their way onto every legislator's desk at the Capitol. These reports were the backbone of information that gave legislators the reason to just say no to any form of gambling expansion. Upon visiting in our legislators' offices during the final three weeks of the Session, it was common to see the familiar Casino Watch binder containing these reports sitting out on a desk.
CALL FOR A STUDY OF WHAT CASINOS COST SOCIETY
This session like others in the past, found Sen. John Loudon at the forefront of the battle to keep the Loss Limit in place. His understanding of the negative consequences of casino gambling and how they impact families and businesses in Missouri, goes back to his days in the House and continues now in the Senate. Few, if any, states have such an articulate and faithful advocate for this issue. Again this year he introduced a bill that would have required an independent study to be performed at the University of Missouri on the cost of casino gambling in Missouri. Casino Watch testified to the importance of such a study but with the budget crisis looming, it did not get the attention it deserved. Nevertheless, Senator Loudon, as in previous years took a strong leadership role all through the Session as casino lobbyists and the Governor tried to move their agenda forward.
EXPERT WITNESSES WEIGHED IN ON MISSOURI'S LOSS LIMIT
Early in the Session we had asked for comments from a variety of experts around the country who might shed some light on the value of our Loss Limit law. Some of the statements we were able to use as a guide for legislators during the Session came from Dr. Frank Quinn, Carolina Psychiatric Services, Prof. John W. Kindt, University of Illinois, Prof. Robert Goodman, researcher and author of The Luck Business, Dr. Valorie Lorenz, Compulsive Gambling Center, Inc., Edward Looney, New Jersey Council on Compulsive Gambling, Inc., Rachael A. Volberg, Gemini Research, Prof. Earl L. Grinols, University of Illinois, I. Nelson Rose, Whittier Law School, Costa Mesa, CA.
The general conclusion was that Missouri, being the only casino venue known to have a Loss Limit, should keep it in place because it tends to slow down the pace toward addiction, limits losses and possible suicides, slows the move toward bankruptcy, and is definitely a wise provision.
And then, in stark contrast, was the Missouri Gaming Commission's opinion expressed by their Executive Director Kevin Mullally who said, "There is no evidence that the limit slows down compulsive gamblers. If I thought the loss limit helped one person from being a problem gambler, it would be our Number 1 priority".
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
As the Session was coming to a close the pro-casino forces in the Senate decided to modify HB444 so that the removal of the $500 Loss Limit would be included. HB444 was a Veterans bill that everyone loved, sponsored in the House by Representative Jack Jackson from Ellisville. The governor liked this move as it would attach the controversial Loss Limit removal to a bill that virtually everyone would vote for. All that was needed at that point was for it to pass the Senate.
On the eve of the final day of the session, pressure was rising from the governor, his staff, casino lobbyists and some legislators who wanted the Loss Limit to be removed. But Jack Jackson made it clear that he did not want his bill (HB444) ruined with this provision. Thank you Rep. Jackson! With this roadblock in place, the Senate, with only a few hours remaining stripped off the Loss Limit language and passed the Veterans bill. It was then sent back to the House for final approval where it passed almost unanimously, without the Loss Limit language.
OTHER HEROS IN THE BATTLE
Our good friends Kerry Messer and his fine staff did a magnificent job monitoring gambling legislation and reacting to activities on the floor of both the House and the Senate during this Session. Their group Missouri Family Network has been active in preventing the expansion of gambling since the early 90s and we could not have done our work without their outstanding guidance and assistance.
Also, there are a number of senators and representatives who continually stand with Casino Watch in opposition to any further expansion of gambling in Missouri. They have made numerous statements throughout the session in support of Missouri families, businesses, and society in general, all of whom will suffer if the Loss Limit goes away. We hesitate to start naming names for fear of forgetting someone, but they are all around the State and we appreciate every one of them.
But we must mention Catherine Hanaway, Speaker of the House and Peter Kinder, President Pro Tem of the Senate. Catherine Hanaway said early in the session that her colleagues would rather sell M & Ms at interstate rest stops than rely on more money from gamblers. This comment and her leadership in the House was nothing short of outstanding. Peter Kinder took a great amount of heat in managing a difficult situation where filibusters are almost standard operating procedure. He was careful to give the casino agenda a fair hearing, but wise enough to know when enough is enough. Our thanks to both able leaders.
So, what do we do now? We wait for a decision from the Governor about a special session of the legislature to find more money for his budget. Will it include another attempt to remove the $500 Loss Limit? Stay tuned with your powder dry as we may need to make another stand.
Casino Watch, Inc.