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Prop A Good for Kids? Don't Bet the House On It.
Commentary by: Mira Tanna
Aired October 30, 2008


Who could be against kids? With 2 children in the St. Louis Public Schools, I would vote for almost anything that increased resources for public education. And that’s what the gaming industry is betting on.

Proposition A is a high stakes game for the gambling industry. Written by the president of the Missouri Riverboat Gaming Association, Prop A is also known as the “Schools First” initiative. Pinnacle Entertainment and Ameristar have each pumped about $7 million into the ballot initiative, while the Missouri Gaming Association is betting nearly $50,000. Tying their future to education is a gamble that has paid off before, and that they hope will pay off again.

Proposition A would do away with the $500 loss limits that are currently in place to prevent problem gamblers from betting their homes and their kids’ college savings. It would increase the casino gambling tax from 20% to 21%, restrict new casinos from being established in the state, prohibit future loss limits, require ID only if necessary to establish someone is at least 21, and put money in a new Schools First Elementary and Secondary Education Improvement Fund.

Interestingly enough, funds generated by this measure, projected by the state auditor to be between 128 – 156 million, will not actually benefit most public schools in St. Louis City and County. According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the measure is projected to benefit only 8 of the 25 St. Louis County school districts and would bring no money to the St. Louis Public Schools.

I think about that 140 million or so dollars projected to come from this initiative. Some of it, granted is coming from an increase in the gaming tax. But most of the increase is coming from problem gamblers who are betting money they don’t have. The Missouri Department of Mental Health warns that 1% of adults are compulsive gamblers and another 2-3% are problem gamblers. The annual estimated cost of the pathological gambling problem is $5 billion a year. “Each problem gambler negatively impacts 10 to 17 people around them, including family, employer, co-workers and government.” Studies have also shown that children of compulsive gamblers are at a higher risk for abuse, neglect, suicide, and addictive behavior.

So is Prop A good for kids? I, for one, won’t bet the house on it.


(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Mira Tanna

Mira Tanna

Commentator

Mira Tanna is the Assistant Director for the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council

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