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Does Missouri need another casino?

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Dear Editor, (Would appreciate your publishing this as an Op Ed Piece)

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

A few years ago the casino people promised us that if we would only approve casinos in Missouri, they would provide us romantic riverboats floating in the moonlight. Now we have glitzy landlocked casinos somewhere near a river.

They agreed to a $500-per-two-hour ($6,000-per-24- hour)loss limits if we would approve casinos. Once allowed in, they never relented until they got rid of the loss limits.

They promised us a lot more money to education. Bottom line, very little if any additional money has gone to Missouri education from our citizens losing money in the casinos.

The late U.S. Senator Paul Simon from Illinois saw what gambling expansion was doing in the country. On the floor of the U.S. Senate Senator Simon noted the recent suicide by a respected member of his mother's church, a lady who became addicted following innocent visits to the local casino. In that context, he spoke to his fellow Senators, saying: "What should not be ignored by Congress and the American people is that we have a problem on our hands." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 1, 1995)

This resulted in a federal gambling commission which in time recommended a slowdown or moratorium on casino expansion. The casinos didn't slow down ... except when the local citizens insisted on it ... before casinos would get established locally.

And in that same U.S. Senate speech, Senator Simon said further: "...political power propels the spread of gambling. In Illinois ... lobbyists for the gaming industry include 'a former governor, a former attorney general, two former U.S. attorneys, a former director of the state police, a prominent former judge, a former mayor of Chicago and at least seven former state legislators ...'" The lesson was clear. In that case, those public officials helpful to the casinos can expect a payoff, perceived by the public to be little more that delayed bribes.

The casino pattern for "getting their foot in the door" in a region includes baiting public officials with the promises of all kinds of big money if the next casino is permitted. Strapped for needing more money to pay for government, and supported by other groups reaping the short-term benefits, public servants too frequently fall for it. But the fact is that when casinos get established locally, they suck tens of millions out of the local economy (most of which goes out of state), money no longer available for legitimate products and services.

Public officials are often jubilant over the idea of casinos sapping every dollar they can from those same citizens whose welfare they are committed to protect. We saw it recently upon the license approval of the new "River City Casino" in St. Louis. It was anticipated to produce $200 million a year ... more than $500,000 a day ... in gambling losses of the people to River City. Public official and the casino people -- in an apparent "de facto" partnership celebrated together!

For years we have known from experience and from studies (such as in the St. Louis Law Journal, Winter, 1995, by Professor John Warren Kindt of the University of Illinois) that when gambling options increase in a region, so do the related problems: more compulsive gamblers, more crime, more thoughts of suicides by the inevitable numbers of area people who become addicted (with some actually committing suicides), more embezzlements, more corruption of public officials... I could go on.

Major media outlets in an area anticipate and experience big incomes from casinos advertising accounts. At the same time, the mountains of evidence regarding the negative results from localized casinos is typically under-researched and under-reported by those same media outlets.

Before casinos came to the St. Louis region, there were a couple of small Gamblers Anonymous chapters. Now in that same area there are more that 20 Gamblers Anomyous chapters.

A subtle and usually overlooked casino negative: many problem gamblers embezzle money from anybody else's cash they can access to steal the money. That stolen money is frequently identified by the ATM withdrawals of the thieves who visit the casinos. With casinos thus identified as receiving the stolen money, I asked one victim about the $200,000 embezzled from him and his wife, which destroyed their small business and nearly their lives. "How much of the identified stolen money did the casinos return to you?" The answer: "Not one penny!"

And since Missouri governmental agencies got their cut of the identified stolen money from the casinos, how much of the stolen money did government return to my friends, the victims. Same answer: "Not one Penny!"

Whoever thought we would need to look to President Putin of Russia as a wise example and role model. In recent years Putin and the Russian government closed more than 2,200 Russian casinos!

Let's hope that the Missouri Gaming Commission looks out for the best interests of the citizens of Missouri with an emphatic statement and decision: "No more new casinos in Missouri."


Rev. Dr. Harold H. Hendrick, Florissant, MO

Director of Public Affairs of Bott Radio Network and radio talk show host.


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Reverend, you have an issue with gambling - fine.

I guess you are planning to rail against any establishment that serves liquor and beer too. And I assume you are going after the banks for issuing credit cards to people who dont even have jobs. And then, fire away at the fast food industry for addicting the country to high fat fried foods. Then I think you should have all stores closed that sell unecessary items like big TV's and stereo equipment. And how about calling for the closing all movie theaters that show PG 17 and R movies.

The point you miss is that people pay for what they believe has value and entertainment has value and some like to gamble for entertainment. Who are you to decide what people do with thier own money - dont people have to make choices in life? Or do you expect the government and/or the church to make all those choices for them? I guess you know best what people should do with thier money.

-- Posted by capecorrection on Sat, Oct 30, 2010, at 11:52 AM

Reverend, you are a wise person who speaks many good points. Rest assured I, along with thousands of other voters in this town will be voting no this Tuesday, but rest assured also that the gaming commission is receiving many letters of support from the good people in this part of the state that do not want this casino. Personally 12 casinos is enough in MO, and I cannot imagine a 13th casino would bring in any additional revenue. Personally, I'm OK with gambling as a recreation, although for me it's too stressful throwing my money away. I just do not want this thing in Cape Girardeau because it would be the only venue of entertainment in town on many nights hastening the financial losses by those unwitting individuals who just don't understand the laws of probability. If we have to have 13 casinos, put them in metropolitan areas where there are other venues of entertainment that people can choose from. Thank you very much for your letter.

-- Posted by Beaker on Sat, Oct 30, 2010, at 8:09 PM

This is one of the best letters to the editor I have seen!

-- Posted by antigambler on Sun, Oct 31, 2010, at 2:02 PM

OH - good reason to oppose this. Nothing to do in Cape so lets not add ANYTHING that is halfway entertaining because everybody knows entertainment is just a big waste of money. And you presume people are soooo stupid that they cant prevent themselves for acting irresponsibly even though 99% act like adults and know what they can afford to spend in an evening - just like they do at bars and restuarnats that serve liquor. And since YOU dont want to do it - you dont think anyone else should either. The high and mighty know whats best.

-- Posted by capecorrection on Sun, Oct 31, 2010, at 6:22 PM

Capecorrection, I feel sorry for you because of your inability to find anything to do in Cape. Your plea for gambling in your town sounds desperate. You are exhibiting all the signs of someone who will eventually develop a gambling problem, especially if it comes to your doorstep.

You obviously don't understand that addictions are just as common among "smart" people as among "stupid" people. When someone becomes addicted, they will do irresponsible things, not because they have always been an irresponsible person, but because the addiction is controlling their actions.

No one has yet discovered a way to draw the line between when the "fun" of gambling becomes the addiction of gambling. It sneaks up on its victims. Once it happens, it's too late. The addicts cannot go back and undo the problem.

There is no dice breath nor card marks on arms to alert others to the problem. Suicide is sometimes the first indication to others.

May God protect you and everyone from this horrible addiction.

-- Posted by antigambler on Mon, Nov 1, 2010, at 12:06 PM

For a person who enjoys an occasional visit to the casino, this all sounds depressing. Sure there is a dark side to gambling, but does everybody who enjoys gambling have to pay the price? Casinos create good paying jobs so employees can buy homes, cars and send their kids to college. Yet the anti-gambling groups feel a since justice putting them on the unemployment lines. I have a deep respect for people who help people in need. But let me live my life the way I feel fit. Not every person that walks into a casino has a gambling problem.

-- Posted by extralucky on Thu, Nov 4, 2010, at 7:05 AM

Extralucky, I hope you understand that the odds do not favor anyone. The house always wins. Anyone who gambles regularly WILL pay the price---your hard-earned money.

Casino jobs are not good-paying. In fact, studies show that every added casino job causes one job to be eliminated in the surrounding economy.

You are right that not every person who walks into a casino has a gambling problem. But, many people who walk OUT of a casino have developed a gambling problem.

You've heard the saying that if you don't play, you can't win. It's also true that if you don't play, you won't develop a gambling addiction. The odds of leaving a casino ahead of the game are very small. Yet, one in 20 of those who gamble regularly will become addicted to gambling. Do you want to take that chance? Not me!

-- Posted by antigambler on Sun, Nov 7, 2010, at 12:23 PM

Antigambler with statements like this "You are right that not every person who walks into a casino has a gambling problem. But, many people who walk OUT of a casino have developed a gambling problem." It's clear that you have a problem. I agree for some people gambling is a serious problem. By thinking that by just walking into a casino people become sick degenerates is not going to help matters. If someone walks into a casino and loses money but enjoys their experience. Who are you so say they have a problem?

-- Posted by extralucky on Sat, Nov 27, 2010, at 9:53 AM

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