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Opinion: Expanding gambling with new slot machines won’t help veterans and it shouldn’t be done without voter approval

Julie Ausmus

No community is more proud of veterans than Cameron. We are the home of one of the state’s veterans’ homes and we take pride in honoring those that served. I am all for finding ways to further give more financial support to veterans for all of the sacrifices they have endured on behalf of our country; however, some legislators are making promises that the expansion of illegal gambling and raising of taxes in the state will help veterans with new funds. We all know that we can’t trust government to deliver on the promises of new funding sources. And in this instance, I fear we are making a trade with the devil.

The Missouri Legislature is looking to legalize and expand Video Lottery Terminals (think digital slot machines) to rest stops, malls, and other places of business across the state. They know that Missourians won’t go for the expansion of gambling unless they can tie it to something to satisfy Missourians. In this case, the state promises that some of the proceeds from taxing lottery slot machines will go towards helping veterans.

I think if the government wants to be serious about helping communities and veterans, they should look at positive ways to do so instead of going around the will of voters and expanding gaming in the state without their approval.

While regulated casinos offer programs to promote responsible gaming to those with a gambling problem, the retail locations hosting these slot machines won’t. Instead, they will crop up in gas stations, rest stops and shopping malls. This will grow addictions and justify it all by skimming some money off the top–money that most veterans will never see. This legislation aims to create more lottery slot machines outside casinos then inside of them. That’s something that Missouri simply can’t afford.

As a new member of our city council, I know what it means to see prosperity happen in the state. The City of Cameron is at the intersection of America’s crossroads and we are working hard every day to make sure folks know we are open for business. We want to attract small businesses to set up shop in our towns. We want to attract families to bring that vital life blood back to our small towns and rural communities. Lottery slot machines don’t lend a positive impression on a small town like Cameron for those that are passing through or those that might consider to stay.

Lottery slot machines would suck up local dollars from communities instead of having them invested in the local community. This legislation also takes slot machines out of the highly controlled and regulated environment of casinos and dumps them in family venues and stops across the state. The money goes into the pockets of the interests who own the terminals, while veterans would see mere pennies on the dollar.

Besides the owners in slot machine industry – this proposal makes almost everyone worse off. Veterans, small towns and families are worse off. Already, such terminals exist and are illegally operating in the state. Legitimizing and growing the trade is not going to make things better. Missourians should oppose bills that would see these slot machines become a permanent fixture of our state.