By Geoff Freeman
Casinos in Missouri are driving big results — such as generating $8 billion in tax and admission revenue over more than two decades — while building strong ties with small businesses and community leaders. For these and many others reasons, the American Gaming Association (AGA) visited St. Louis this month to shine a spotlight on the vital role the industry is playing in Missouri, a microcosm of our impact across 40 states.
During the event at Pinnacle’s River City Casino & Hotel with Missouri gaming executives, St. Louis-area business and community leaders, state and local elected officials and gaming regulators, the conversation focused on the successes to date — but emphasized the need for policies and regulations that encourage innovation and reinvestment.
For example, Missouri casinos routinely purchase from minority-owned, women-owned and small disadvantaged businesses — and they’re seen as a model for other businesses.
“We have actually grown from [working with] one casino…to over 40, which is huge for our company,” said Andrea Scales-Williams, president of Document Imaging Systems. “We’ve been able to hire three or four people and because of the casino market, we now have four locations. We’re very proud to be working in the casino industry.”
“The relationships our businesses form with gaming companies are unique”, said Ed Bryant, vice president, Diverse Business Solutions, St. Louis Chamber of Commerce. “I’m seeing some best practices in the way that you source to and from minority-owned and diverse businesses. I’d like to see the gaming sector share your best practices. Share what you’re doing with the health care sector, with the advanced manufacturing sector, with other sectors.”
While casino gaming is a valued community partner in St. Louis and across Missouri, there’s room for growth. During the event, the panel focused on how legalized, regulated sports betting could generate additional tax revenue for the state of Missouri.
As KMOV reported, “Missouri and other U.S. states are missing out on billions of dollars because of a federal law banning sports betting.” KSDK added that “Americans already bet $150 billion a year on sports illegally. So the push is to legalize it, and then also reap the benefits.”
The question about sports betting is a good one to ask. Of course, it alone is no silver bullet to gaming’s growth in Missouri. Instead, a shift to progressive policies and regulations – not simply sticking with what worked yesterday – would go a long way.
As River City Casino’s Chris Plant said, “We are competing with other states and industries.” We encourage Missouri’s elected officials and gaming regulators torecognize intense competition from other states and to take a progressive view of gaming policy that supports greater reinvestment, flexibility to adapt to rapidly changing consumer demands and commonsense regulations that help the industry generate even greater tax revenue.
Freeman is the president and CEO of the American Gaming Association.