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Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Ongoing Missouri Gambling Fight

When is gambling not gambling? When are slot machines not slot machines? Apparently, the answer is: when they come to Missouri.

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear deception and double-speak come from the mouths of gambling proponents. After all, these are the same people who have given us “boats” which have permanent foundations and couldn’t float if they had to. These are the same folks who tried to remove the $500 loss limit in Missouri by hiding it in the Smart Start Scholarship legislation. And these are the same people who promised money for education in our state, and through sleight of hand in the capital all those dollars that would have gone to education are replaced by gambling money and then spent elsewhere. In fact, in the end, every dollar that comes into the state coffers from gambling ends up costing the state about three dollars in expenses for law enforcement, bankruptcy, criminal court costs and help to families of those addicted.

So, it should come as no surprise that these masters of smoke and mirrors have now offered us slot machines that aren’t slot machines. They’re “bingo slots.” What’s the difference? In appearance and function, nothing but the name on paper. But in impact, the difference is huge.

If Missouri Gaming Commission director Gene McNary gets his way, these “bingo slots” would be allowed in any place that currently allows regular bingo. A story in the KC Star a couple months back stated that “McNary acknowledged he's been actively discussing the issue of charitable slots with officials at several affected state agencies, including the Missouri Veterans Commission.” That article shows that the Gaming Commission is also pushing for gambling expansion in several other ways, but is holding back right now because Gov. Matt Blunt opposes such expansion. Thank you Gov. Blunt!

I recently attended a lunch with the folks from Missouri Clergy Against Gambling Expansion (MOCAGE) and Casino Watch. This was one of the issues discussed, but it certainly isn’t the only issue. Folks, the fight against gambling expansion in Missouri is not over, it’s not confined to areas along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, and now it’s not even confined to casinos. It could be coming to your back yard.

We need to remain vigilant and be sure that we fight to protect our families from the destruction that comes as a result of gambling and gambling addiction. Keep up with Casino Watch, the Missouri Baptist Christian Life Commission and others who will be watching this issue. And be prepared and be willing to contact Missouri legislators when the time comes to make your voice heard.

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