Gambling continuously increases its stranglehold on Missouri, thanks to the shortsightedness of some of our elected leaders. Its devastating effects on families are seen by shattered lives and hopes. Draining tens of millions from our economy, from local merchants and expanding gambling during a recession is bad public policy.
Yet the siren song of gambling advocates continues. I once asked my own State Senator, Scott Rupp, why he was sponsoring the repeal of the loss limits on casinos. He repeated the mantra of the pro-gambling crowd that it would mean more money for public schools. As a pro-family conservative, I have a real problem with destroying families and people’s lives in the name of ‘education.’
Missouri once stood as an example for all other states by having a $500 loss limit every two hours. While you could still lose more than you could afford under the old law, it had a tempering effect. It slowed people down. While waiting for another two-hour period to start, some gamblers would decide to go home. That is why the casinos didn't like it.
Legislators who accept campaign money from the gambling industry often justify their acceptance of such support by claiming that “tax revenues generated by gambling are for a ‘worthy cause,’” i.e. funding public education.
To begin with, casinos are not in business to fund education. They exist to make huge profits. And, their primary targets are the citizens of the State who can least afford to lose their hard earned money; senior citizens, husbands and wives with a gambling addiction, and people in desperate need who think that by gambling they can some how strike it rich and solve all their problems. Gambling doesn’t solve problems, it creates them!
Now that we have seen the devastating effects of removal of loss limits, how about the honey-coated promises of the casino industry to generate big bucks for education? It turns out that the schools are getting less than 1/3 the promised amount!
This year the pro-gambling State Senate was at it again. This time it was to spend our scarce resources directly on inducing more people to gamble via the State Lottery. Mathematically, the odds are astronomically against those who play the lottery. Over the course of a year, those who gamble that extra dollar, or two, or five at the cash register are simply paying hundreds of extra dollars in taxes to the State.
While the State of Missouri is recoiling with budget shortfalls, there is one budget line item that is obviously benefiting from the hardship - the lottery advertising budget. The following is a breakdown of how much the state has spent on advertising the Missouri Lottery from 2005 to 2010, plus what has been allocated for promoting the lottery for 2011.
Fiscal Year 2005 $2.1 million
Fiscal Year 2006 2.1 million
Fiscal Year 2007 1.5 million
Fiscal Year 2008 1.3 Million
Fiscal Year 2009 1.3 Million
Fiscal Year 2010 1.3 million
Fiscal Year 2011 $8 million Yes, this last number is 8 MILLION of our tax dollars!
Governor Nixon recommended that the Legislature increase the lottery advertising budget from $1.3 million to $5 million for 2011. That alone would have been a horrendous increase. However, that wasn’t enough for the Senate and the gambling industry, so they decided to increase the Governor’s recommendation to $8 million - more than six times the current amount to advertise the lottery!
Why such a huge increase? The pro-gambling forces said we needed to drive more people to want to gamble so the State Lottery could rake in more money. My Senator was one of three Republican Senators on the Conference Committee who advanced the Senate’s pro-gaming agenda.
I am proud to say that I voted against this horribly destructive plan to lure people into gambling and thus lose more of their hard-earned money, but the Senate position prevailed.
A common legislative question I’m asked is “What happened to all that gambling money that was supposed to go to education?” The short answer is that the expectations were lowered as to the State’s obligation to fund schools. Since ‘gaming money’ was going into the school fund, there was less pressure to spend regular State revenues on education so the net effect was far less.
The longer answer is that the predatory nature of gambling causes significant harm such as bankruptcies, broken homes, gambling addiction, increases in crime, and even suicides. So, as long as the State and local municipalities are picking up part or all of the tab for these unmentioned hidden costs, a percentage of the money extracted from gambling is little more than a redistribution of wealth.
I voted against the State Budget because I believe it violated the Missouri Constitution, which requires a balanced budget. The budget that was passed by the Missouri General Assembly was around $350 million over what we should have spent. Yet some Legislators are now lying to the public and saying they balanced the State Budget.
But balancing the budget on the backs of the poor -or those with a gambling addiction- is not the solution. The recession didn't sneak up on us. We all saw a tight budget coming as we watched our economy diminish. The answer is to first turn our economy around and create more wealth for individuals -not attempt to wring the last nickel out of those who can least afford it and do more harm to the citizens of Missouri!
However, there is hope. Some of us are willing to stand on principles, rather than pandering to the pro-gambling lobby. It is hard to be in the minority on social issues, especially when your party is supposed to be in the majority. However, history is full of examples of one person who made a difference by standing strong against evil. Our citizens deserve moral leadership and one by one some of those pro-gambling legislators are getting replaced.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Cynthia Davis: Gambling increasing its stranglehold on Missourians
In her latest capital report, Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, points out the differences between her stance on gambling issues and that of her opponent in August's senatorial primary, incumbent Sen. Scott Rupp: