Gambling initiative passes, wipes out limit on casino losses

Wednesday, November 5, 2008 | 3:31 a.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — Despite approval of Proposition A on  Tuesday, it will be another month before casino patrons will be able to gamble in Missouri casinos without a loss limit in place.

The successful ballot initiative will remove the state's $500 limit on gambling losses for every two hours they spend in Missouri riverboats. Before it takes effect, it must receive official certification on the local level before being certified by the state, said Ryan Hobart, deputy communications director for the Secretary of State Office. Each process, by statute, takes up to two weeks, he said.

Promoted as a means to generate additional revenue for education, it won approval in the state's two largest metro areas. The counties where the proposal trailed were limited primarily to rural areas of the state. 

In addition to repealing the loss limit, Proposition A also will limit the number of casinos in the state to those built or being built on the date the measure takes effect.

It will require customers to present identification to enter gambling areas only when needed to establish that an individual is at least 21 years old, and it will increase the state gambling tax on casino profits from 20 percent to 21 percent.

Finally, it will create a new, specific education fund for those gambling proceeds called the "Schools First Elementary and Secondary Education Improvement Fund."

According to a financial estimate for the ballot issue by the Secretary of State's office, the state stands to gain between $110 million and $137 million under repeal of the loss limit, with most of the money going toward primary and secondary education.

Scott Charton, spokesman for the campaign for Proposition A, said via news release Tuesday night, that Proposition A's approval "is a win for our state's economy, our schools and common sense."

"It means Missouri can finally compete for casino visitors and revenues on a level playing field with neighboring states, and it means there will be more revenues to help fund elementary and secondary education from the gaming tax paid by casinos."

The executive director of Chesterfield-based Casino Watch, Evelio Silvera, an opponent of Proposition A, conceded defeat shortly after 10:30 p.m.

Silvera said the millions of dollars provided to the pro-Proposition A effort by Ameristar Casinos, which operates in Kansas City and St. Charles, and Pinnacle Entertainment, a casino operator in the St. Louis area, proved too influential to counter with Casino Watch's anti-Proposition A message.

"It is difficult to get that message out over the drumbeat of a very persistent campaign that spends $16, $17 dollars on a carefully crafted distortion," Silvera said.

"Our hope is that the school funding will truly make it to the neediest school districts and this will not evaporate as a broken promise," he added.

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