Illinois and Missouri Lawmakers Each Try to Expand Gambling in Their States
Legislative efforts are underway in Illinois and Missouri to expand gambling. Both initiatives seek to expand the number of places which can host slot machines with new “video gambling” laws.
The issues being debated are different in each of the neighboring states, but both issues call for more gambling at a time when public funding is becoming a concern in many states. The Illinois bill is a much more limited proposal, while two Missouri bills would represent a large expansion of machine gambling in the state. At the same time, the Missouri bills hope to help average American small business owners, instead of the big, established gambling interests.
Illinois Slot Machine Bill
The Illinois proposal is sponsored by State Senator James Clayborne, a Democrat from Belleville. Sen. Clayborne wants to added slot machines to the Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison. The racetrack is a few miles from downtown St. Louis.
The debate between proponents and opponents of gambling has gathered intensity over the past 5 years, as video gambling machines have gotten more popular across the state. After a law was enacted to allow stores and restaurants to feature a limited number of VGLs, they have proliferated across the state in Mom-n-Pop businesses.
As they have, problem gambling activists, religious groups, and family groups have called for an end or a limitation to the VGLs. Some community leaders took a stand against video gambling, only to see most or all of the other cities in their county install such devices. With residents driving to nearby communities to gamble, those same leaders had to determine whether their own local ban was worth it.
Missouri Video Gambling Machine Bill
The Missouri proposal would legalize video gambling machines in local bars and fraternal organizations. The taxes from video gambling would generate money for education. Rep. Bart Korman, a Republican whose district includes Jefferson City (but is from Warrenton originally), is sponsoring the Missouri slot machine bill in the Missouri General Assembly.
Bart Korman’s Proposals
Under Bart Korman’s proposal, local bars, taverns, and restaurants would have the option of adding as many as five video gambling machines. Fraternal organization would be given the opportunity to add up to 10 gaming machines apiece.
Rep. Korman emphasized that his video gambling bill would generate cash for school issues. Korman told St. Louis Today, “When you look at the budget situation we have, I think it’s something we need to have a conversation about. The cost of busing is an important issue in rural areas. Student transportation has been cut year after year.”
Denny Hoskin’s Companion Bill
Missouri State Senator Denny Hoskins, a Republican from Warrensburg, has a companion bill to Korman’s in the Missouri Senate. Hoskins’ bill would set aside 35% of the state’s gambling funds to pay for higher learning programs, including grants and scholarships.
For either of the bills to become law, the companion pieces would need to be passed in their respective legislative bodies. Since both of the sponsors are Republicans, one might think that a Republican-controlled legislature would approve the measures. That is not necessarily the case, because many GOP voters take a socially conservative stance on laws involving “vice”. Since many evangelical Christians believe gambling of any sort is a sin, that complicates matters in the Missouri legislature.
Missouri State Politics
15 years ago, Missouri was considered one of the bellweather states in United States politics. As a southern border state which had close proximity to northern states like Illinois, it was a patchwork of liberal and conservative bastions.
Since then, Missouri has become more of a red state, typically voting for Republicans. As Democrat candidates spoke more of globalist economic strategies and less about middle class American economics, the socially conservative nature of the state became more pronounced.
These days, even moderate and gun-friendly Democrats like US military veteran like Jason Kander have trouble winning in Missouri. Despite their conservative ideals, Missouri Republicans seem to think their voters will support gambling expansion. With budgets becoming harder to balance, Missouri would not be the first southern state to look to gambling to help with shortfalls.
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