Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Post-Dispatch: Casinos pour money into loss-limit measure

Any time someone claims legislation that will benefit gambling will ultimately benefit the education of Missouri children, the claim deserves to be taken with a grain of salt.

That has been the claim of the Yes for Schools First Coalition, a supposedly grassroots group formed to work for passage of a constitutional measure that would supposedly bring $130 million into Missouri schools.

Of course, that will be what we will hear when advertising for this issue starts this fall. Three facts about this measure will not be mentioned:

1. Loss limits at Missouri casinos will be removed, which will likely lead to more of the financial problems and crime associated with gambling addiction.

2. A moratorium will be placed on the construction of new casinos, allowing the current casinos to continue to rake in the dough.

3. The minute one source of money for education is found, a like amount or even more is usually eliminated from the portion schools receive from general revenue.

Who wants this issue passed. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that documents filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission indicate that all of the money supporting the Yes for Schools First Coalition came from two sources- Ameristar Casinos and Pinnacle Casinos- to the tune of $2.4 million:

Each company donated $250,000 during the period to the Yes For Schools First Coalition , the group that’s pushing a measure on the November ballot that would end Missouri’s one-of-a-kind $500 loss limit, cap casino licenses and provide up to another $130 million in school funding. The only other donor in the quarter was the Missouri Gaming Association, which provided nearly $13,000 worth of in-kind donations.

All told, Ameristar has donated $1.21 million to the effort, and Pinnacle $1.19 million. Aside from the Gaming Association, they’ve been the only donors since Yes for Schools First was formed in December. Other casino groups, like Harrah’s Entertainment, have said they support the measure, but not donated money to it.

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