St. Joseph student wins $1500 scholarship from the Missouri Gaming Association

St. Joseph student wins $1500 scholarship from the Missouri Gaming Association

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JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Ariah Smith of St. Joseph, MO, a 2023 graduate of Central High School is one of four students in Missouri to win the 27th annual Project 21 Scholarship competition sponsored by the Missouri Gaming Association, the professional organization representing casino operators in Missouri. Smith will receive a $1,500 scholarship towards tuition at University of Missouri – Columbia, where she plans to earn degrees in both Business Management and Marketing. Each year, the Missouri Gaming Association awards one $2,500 scholarship and three $1,500 scholarships. 

Smith’s winning essay titled “Underage Gambling” delves into the consequences of gambling among minors and explores its effects on the still-developing teenage brain. She also designed a poster titled “Side Effects of Underage Gambling” that was displayed at school to bring awareness to her peers.

“Teens need to be aware of what underage gambling can do to them and how fast it can lead to negative long-term consequences,” says Smith. 

The Project 21 Scholarship was developed to educate young people about the issues and dangers of underage gambling. In Missouri, it’s illegal for persons under the age of 21 to gamble in a casino. The competition is open to all Missouri high school seniors planning to attend an institution of higher education in the United States within four years of graduation. The scholarships are jointly issued to the winners and the accredited institutions of higher education they select.

The students were asked to create an essay/article, poster or video aimed at educating their peers about the illegality and dangers of underage gambling. The entries were published or viewed in the students’ high schools in January or February to help educate other students.

“The Missouri casino industry is dedicated to education in our state, both through the education funding from gaming tax revenues and through awareness efforts like Project 21,” said Mike Winter, executive director of the Missouri Gaming Association.  “Young people are influenced mostly by what they hear from their peers, so Project 21 encourages students to learn about the issues of underage gambling and to share that information with their classmates.”

The Missouri Gaming Association (MGA) is the statewide trade association of the Missouri casino entertainment industry. Founded in 1993, 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


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