Expect the Missouri Legislature this coming session to repeal Missouri's $500 loss limit at casinos. That prediction comes on the heels of two recommendations this week by business leaders in St. Louis and Kansas City. Those businessmen know that higher casino revenues to the state coffers will help fund a budget shortfall that is impacting not just Missouri but the entire nation. And statistics show they are right.
Missouri currently has a unique $500 loss limit per two-hour gambling session. Casino officials say only 2 percent of gamblers ever approach the loss limit. But the removal of the loss limit would increase the state's share of each gambling loss and that could amount to millions for education in the Missouri budget.
Missouri officials this year cut nearly $400 million out of the state budget because of declining revenues. Everyone predicts that trend will continue. So there are limited ways to make up for that budget shortage - raising taxes, cutting services or generating new revenues. The first two options are not embraced by voters. But increasing gambling revenues might be more palatable to lawmakers.
State budget officials say education funding next year will fall $220 million short of the need. State estimates say the removal of the loss limit will bring in an additional $40 million to the state. That alone may be enough to push the measure through the Legislature.
The loss limits in Missouri have long been a source of frustration. No other surrounding state has such a limit and it clearly reduces the revenue available for Missouri. And there is a general consensus that the loss limits are more frustration than a benefit for problem gamblers.
The national economy is changing. A recession is a distinct possibility. That will force all government agencies to explore new sources of revenue. It may not be the best solution but a removal of the loss limit is an appealing way to fund education. It spreads the burden on those who frequent the casinos and it benefits education. We think it's time to make this long-overdue change.