(PRESS RELEASE) — Missouri legislators may soon consider a major expansion of gambling through HB 423. The bill would authorize the largest expansion of gambling since the Missouri casino industry was established in 1994, allowing thousands of new lottery slot machines at retail establishments throughout the state.
“This irresponsible bill would permit slot machines on every street corner where a restaurant, bar, convenience store or truck stop is located,” said Mike Winter, executive director of the Missouri Gaming Association. “These machines look and play just like slot machines. If this bill passes, we can expect to see them in every city, town or community across the state. Missouri could very quickly have more slot machines outside of casinos than inside them.”
“This is not what Missouri voters envisioned when they voted to approve casino wagering in Missouri,” Winter said. “Voters were very careful to restrict casinos to certain locations and to limit the number of casinos.”
The bill would bypass a vote by Missouri residents, who first authorized casinos by ballot initiative in 1994 and also voted to limit the number of casinos to 13 in 2008. If passed, the proposed gambling expansion is expected to heavily impact rural areas throughout the state. The same towns and cities that opposed casinos in their communities could suddenly see hundreds of slot machines in family restaurants, convenience stores and other retail establishments.
According to Winter, sponsors of the bill try to characterize it as a compromise or regulatory piece of legislation. “That is preposterous,” he said. “If the legislature is truly concerned about illegal gambling machines, they should consider SB 431, which addresses that concern.”
HB 423 would prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from playing lottery slot machines but oversight would be minimal as compared to the strict rules that regulate casinos. Busy retailers with machines on their premises would be solely responsible for monitoring their use.
“The proposed regulations, security and oversight are simply inadequate,” Winter said. “This gambling expansion would bypass not only our state’s voters but also our strong gaming commission, which establishes and enforces strict gambling regulations in our casinos.”
Missouri casinos and the Missouri Gaming Association provide a full range of programs to promote responsible gaming and to help those who have a gambling problem. Retailers hosting lottery slot machines would not be required to provide similar responsible gaming education.