(The following is my column for this week's Newton County News.)
Proposition A is not about education.
Of course, you would not be able to tell that by the advertisements that have bombarded us over the past couple of weeks.
We have grandparents saluting Proposition A, extolling the virtues of this wondrous device through which all financial problems for Missouri elementary and secondary schools will be solved forever.
This past week, it has been a former teacher of the year telling us how wonderful the measure is. At this point, however, not one single educational group has announced support for Proposition A and there is a good reason for that.
The advertisements are all about education, but Proposition A was written by the casino interests, and is designed solely to benefit the casino interests.
Proposition A does call for a one percent increase in casino taxes, with that money earmarked for education. That is the sweetener designed to entice voters to overlook the remainder of the measure.
It would also remove Missouri’s innovative loss limit law which prohibits gamblers from losing more than $500 during a two-hour period. The casino owners want to be able to take as much money as possible from problem gamblers and their families. They complain that the loss limits are driving gamblers to Illinois, Oklahoma, and Kansas, where they can lose as much as they want, but Missouri casinos have still been extremely profitable.
The measure would also eliminate the requirement that gamblers carry identification with them, something which has aided law enforcement in numerous investigations.
Proposition A also eliminates any future competition for existing casinos, effectively allowing them to establish a monopoly.
In the 1976 movie, “All the President’s Men,” the character “Deep Throat,” played by Hal Holbrook, told Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, played by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, to “follow the money.”
Following the money on Proposition A does not lead us to education, only to the deep pockets of casino owners who are willing to do anything they can to get this measure approved in November.
Missouri Ethics Commission documents show casino interests, primarily Ameristar Casinos and Pinnacle Entertainment, have contributed more than $12 million this year to the Yes on A Committee,
The contributions include a quarter of a million from Pinnacle Entertainment posted Saturday on the Ethics Commission website. Both Ameristar Casinos and Pinnacle made $2,613,001 contributions earlier this month, following $1,787,500 contributions in September.
The only contributions the committee has received that did not come from Ameristar or Pinnacle were two donations totaling $38,482.02 listed as "in-kind" from the Missouri Gaming Association, the lobbying group for the casino industry.
Not one contribution to the committee has come from anyone connected with education.
Proposition A is a shell game by casino owners who are brazenly betting on Missourians to put their concern for educational funding ahead of what to all intents and purposes appears to be one of the slimiest proposals to appear on a Missouri ballot in decades.