Lawsuit challenges propriety of gambling ballot initiative

Wednesday, October 15, 2008 | 10:10 p.m. CDT; updated 11:26 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 29, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Rep. Ray Salva, D-Jackson County, and David Knight, a southeast Missouri businessman, have sued the offices of secretary of state and state auditor on the grounds that an electoral ballot issue contains multiple subjects, violating the single-subject provision in the state constitution.

The contested initiative, Proposition A, would remove the $500 gambling loss limit, raise taxes on casinos from 20 percent to 21 percent and restrict the number of casinos in Missouri to the ones already built or in the process of being built.

The initiative also would create a fund from the gambling tax which would generate an estimated $105 million to $130 million for primary and secondary schools.

Assistant Attorney General Daniel Yves Hall said Proposition A's components could all be connected within the subject of regulating gambling and its revenues.

C. Robert Buckley, the attorney representing Salva and Knight, said the initiative serves too many constituents, citing that one person who agrees with eliminating loss limits might not agree with restricting the number of constituents or raising casinos' taxes.

"The voter is thrown into the position of voting for an issue they agree with even if they do not agree with others," he said. "They're conflicted, so how do they vote on that?"

Salva said a section of Proposition A that would require identification to be shown only for age verification would take away from the $2-per-hour tax a casino pays on each person that is triggered when casino ID cards are swiped.

"All they talk about is kids and schools, they don't talk about other issues," he said. "It's the biggest farce I've ever seen in my life."

Buckley said he expects a ruling from the judge early next week.

Chuck Hatfield, attorney for the 'Vote Yes on Prop A' coalition, said he hopes a quick decision will be made so citizens can vote for the initiative and increase funding for public schools.

"It's a perfectly appropriate measure," he said. "I'm not sure what else the secretary of state could have done to make it more fair."

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Mike Sykuta October 16, 2008 | 8:31 a.m.

The plaintiffs in this case make an excellent point. The casino lobby has effectively written themselves a deal to get their cake and eat it, too. Raising the tax by 1% point is nothing compared to the money the casinos may make with the removal of loss limits. Add to that the guarantee that no new casinos could be built in the state to create greater competition (and choice for consumers), and you slop on the icing.

This proposition is ridiculously inappropriate, despite the education funding bribe the gambling industry is offering as an inducement to grant them monopoly-like market power within the state.

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