Clergy oppose elimination of $500 gambling loss limit

Greg Salzer

JEFFERSON CITY – Clergy from across the state gathered at the capitol April 5 to voice their opposition to the elimination of the gambling loss limit.

Gambling amounts to “predatory economics,” clergy members said. Gambling addiction is not just an issue for individuals and families, but also for the state.

The gambling loss limit dates back to the introduction of riverboat casinos in Missouri in 1992. Designed to prevent gamblers from losing over $500 per each two-hour cruise, the loss limit was intended as part of a check and balance system in an attempt to prevent problem gambling.

There are no set cruise times. The two-hour window begins when a gambler enters the casino, and the loss limit is renewed every two hours. Casinos monitor gamblers through the use of betting cards with a magnetic strip.

“The Loss Limit in Missouri casinos was a wise move in 1992, and now we need it more than ever,” said Tim Richards, reverend and chairman of Clergy Against Gambling Expansion.

“Gambling is the fastest growing addiction in the world, faster than pornography,” Richards said.

Richards said there was no formal bill for the elimination of the gambling loss limit this legislative session, but he understood some lawmakers were planning to add language for the elimination to some other legislation.

In fact, there are two House bills, which if enacted, would remove the loss limit.

Craig Bland (D-Kansas City) submitted House Bill 71 to remove the loss limit. Kate Meiners (D-Kansas City) submitted House Bill 123 to remove the loss limit and raise the adjusted gross receipts tax on gambling revenue.

Both of these representatives filed similar legislation in 2004 which did not make it out of committee.

A statement from Clergy Against Gambling Expansion provided at a press conference April 5 said there has been “no significant studies on the cost of gambling in Missouri have been undertaken as recommended by the U.S. Gambling Impact Study Commission’s findings in 1999.”

Studies performed in other states, as reported in the statement, “conclude that such costs in fact exceed the highly touted revenue.”

Senator John Loudon (R-St. Louis) has introduced legislation this year to authorize the seeking of bids from state universities to conduct a study on gambling in Missouri, in part to study the fiscal impact problem gambling has on the state.

Loudon’s bill, Senate Bill 386, would authorize up to $200,000 to pay for the study.

In 10 years, gambling has gone from a zero sum industry to a billion-dollar-a-year industry.

Last year, gambling supporters succeeded in bring a statewide referendum to vote to allow casinos along the White River. Missouri voters defeated the measure 56 percent to 44 percent.

Many of the clergy said they felt the attempts to eliminate the loss limit was an attempt to circumnavigate the voters of the state.

“For 172 years, Missouri survived periods of economic difficulty and prospered in times of economic gain without recourse to legalized gambling,” Richards said.