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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

Gambling loss limits should be voted out

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It now appears likely a measure will be on the November election ballot in Missouri that will end the $500 loss limit at Missouri casinos and put a moratorium on the number of casinos in the state. A challenge to the proposal was ruled in favor of the measure this past week and that should set the stage for the November vote.

As a bit of a disclaimer, I am one of those frequent flyers at Missouri casinos as well as elsewhere. Make of that what you want. Those flashy slot machines are my form of entertainment in lieu of hunting or fishing or increasingly, playing golf.

Having said that, the hypocritical $500 loss limit at Missouri casinos is an archaic and ridiculous attempt to "save" gamblers from themselves. Only in Missouri do we practice this asinine form of gaming monitoring.

When first approved by Missouri voters a decade and a half ago, gambling in Missouri was sold on two fronts: first, the proceeds would largely fund education in the state (which it has and does) and that we would "limit" the amount a person could lose in a casino to $500 every two-hour session.

The end result is that those who have the resources and the desire to perhaps wager more than that amount simply flock to nearby states where loss limits are a laughing stock. Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma and nearby Tunica, Miss., all conduct their business without the stigma of "loss limits." And no study in the world will show that Missouri has "saved" problem gamblers with the dumb concept of loss limits. The limit was simply a ploy to gain voter approval. It worked but now it's time to recognize reality and remove this bogus process.

I have spoken to literally hundreds of Missouri casino-goers and without reservation, they say the removal of the loss limit will not motivate them to gamble any more. It's simply an inconvenience that forces you to adjust your entertainment based on what time you enter the casino. And it's hypocritical even for staunch gambling opponents.

Other than to accommodate the casino guests, the practical impact of this ballot measure is enormous. The Missouri State Auditor estimates the ballot measure could generate up to $130 million annually for elementary and secondary schools, $7 million for higher education and $19 million for local governments where the casinos are located. Those are big bucks and they are needed instead of yet another tax increase.

Of course, the reality is that this measure will likely get ignored come November. After all, we have bigger fish to fry on the November ballot. But that does not diminish its importance to our state's revenue or to the millions who enjoy the fun and entertainment of casinos in our state.

The question of gambling is an emotional one and one where there are few gray areas. You either oppose gambling on moral grounds or you favor the casinos in our state. Either way, the casinos are here to stay and it seems foolish - if not downright stupid - to limit their ability to both entertain and produce revenue for Missouri.

The picture of the mom or dad gambling away the kids' school lunch money is phony. The true picture is one of Missourians just like yourself who enjoy the excitement of visiting these venues and spending their hard-earned money how they choose.

The state most certainly doesn't limit what you can win (and they can tax) so why should they control what you lose?

Michael Jensen

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen