We must ensure the gaming industry remains a significant contributor to the Missouri’s economy
Thirty years ago in November 1992, Missouri voters authorized casino gaming. Since that time, Missouri casinos have proven themselves as excellent corporate citizens, contributing billions of dollars to state and local budgets. And the good news: opportunities exist for even more gaming tax revenue in the future if illegal slot machines and video lottery terminals (VLTs) are finally banned and a responsible sports betting law is passed.
The highly regulated gaming industry is one of Missouri’s top sources of tax revenue. The benefits of casinos in Missouri are clear: over the past three decades, casino taxes and admission fees have generated $8 billion for K-12 education, plus $1 billion in tax revenue for worthy causes, including more than $370 million for veterans’ programs.
During that time, the thirteen Missouri casinos have invested more than $3 billion in high-end entertainment and hospitality destinations. They provide 5,800 well-paying jobs with career growth opportunities, competitive wages and outstanding benefits for a diverse population of employees.
In addition, casinos help fund special projects in their own neighborhoods. In 2021 alone, home dock communities received nearly $64 million in gaming tax revenue, which they used for fire and police programs, street improvements, public utility upgrades, education campaigns, city-sponsored festivals, and many other projects and community development. These financial benefits reflect the fact that Missouri is one of the highest-taxed casino jurisdictions in the country. Our casino properties pay a net effective tax rate of 24.5 percent off the top, in addition to the usual corporate income, property and sales taxes.
In addition to tax revenue, casinos contributed more than $567,000 in cash and in-kind donations in 2021, and their team members volunteered thousands of hours to help community organizations.
Missouri casinos are also a leader in responsible gaming. Together with the Missouri Gaming Association, they sponsor a full range of programs to promote responsible gambling and help the very small percentage of people who have a gambling problem. These include 1-888-BETSOFF — a free 24/7 problem gambling telephone crisis line and referral service — and free counseling for compulsive gamblers and their families through the Missouri Department of Mental Health. The Missouri Gaming Association helped establish the dedicated Compulsive Gamblers Fund, which receives a portion of each patron admission fee paid by the casinos.
The Missouri Gaming Association has also awarded $179,000 in Project 21 Scholarship funds, educating high school students on the issues and dangers of underage gambling.
As positive as these benefits have been, voters may be surprised to learn that gaming tax revenue for the state has been left on the table. Missouri legislators have not yet eliminated slot machines that have proliferated unregulated in bars, truck stops and gas stations across the state, despite overwhelming support from residents to keep these machines inside casinos and away from our schools and houses of worship. A Platte County judge has ruled the machines illegal and dozens of criminal cases are pending throughout the state.
While these court cases drag on, Missouri legislators have yet to pass legislation to eliminate these machines, while others are even attempting to legalize them, which would result in tens of thousands more of these gambling devices in every neighborhood of our communities.
Meanwhile, Missourians are missing out on the tax revenue and jobs associated with sports wagering, which is now legal in 34 states, including Illinois, Kansas, Tennessee, Iowa and Arkansas. Despite widespread support from residents across the state, the State Senate did not vote on a clean sports betting bill because the illegal slot machine companies and their supporters in the legislature would not allow it to happen.
The Missouri Gaming Association will continue to work with legislators to ensure the industry remains a significant contributor to the state’s economy and competitive with neighboring states. Taking independent action on these two distinct issues – ridding our streets of illegal gambling machines and legalizing sports betting – must be a priority in the legislature in 2023.
ABOUT MISSOURI GAMING ASSOCIATION
The Missouri Gaming Association (MGA) is the statewide trade association of the Missouri casino entertainment industry. Founded in 1994, the Missouri Gaming Association works to promote responsible gaming and increase awareness of the economic benefits of casinos in Missouri. The MGA and its casino company members sponsor year-round responsible gaming programs including the 1-888-BETSOFF crisis line and referral service, Project 21 scholarship competition, and Responsible Gaming Awareness Week. For more information, visit www.missouricasinos.org.
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