Our elected officials are constantly looking for new ways to create jobs for Missourians and new revenue in local communities. During this endeavor, however, it is vital to not support any and every effort simply because it is labeled as economic development. One such measure that has been proposed is to allow video lottery terminals to be dumped into every corner of our state – in gas stations and convenience stores, shopping malls, and strip malls. Video lottery terminals are not going to bring prosperity to the Show Me State.
The argument for video lottery machines is that they will create jobs and generate revenue. I have seen these eyesores of flashing lights and sounds in other states and I was not impressed. It also forces individuals with addiction issues to walk past these types machines when they fill up on gas or purchase chewing gum at a local convenience store. Proponents claim that virtual slot machines stood up in every dive bar and gas station is somehow going to improve Missourians’ lives. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Lottery machines are not economic development and they are not a part of the hospitality industry, which is a part of the larger tourism industry. The only jobs video lottery terminals create are for 2-3 employees with a van maintaining machines for a certain geographic area. These aren’t the types of sustaining, long-term jobs that we need in a community like ours, where we are so dependent on tourism to make ends meet. These machines hurt the communities where they are installed, taking money out of the area instead of adding to it. Again, what is being proposed is not hotels or casinos or restaurants that would provide a revenue to hard working families in our rural communities. Even the revenue generated from lottery terminals leaves the area and into the bank accounts of those operating the machines — they act as a vacuum, sucking up local dollars and depositing them somewhere else.
Even worse, video lottery terminals take money out of the pockets of Missouri families. The path to economic prosperity cannot be paved through a widespread, fairly unregulated form of new gaming in the state. By allowing these terminals, we aren’t making our families better off. This isn’t the Missouri way.
What we are in danger of is a government that abandons moral and ethical principles for a Trojan Horse labeled “economic development”. The consequences of such actions would be severe: quasi casinos in strip malls throughout the state, back-rooms in gas stations where desperate individuals try and make a quick buck, and an air of unsafety at every locale where these machines exist. This type of imagery doesn’t say,
“Welcome to Missouri – We are open for Business.” Instead, it says, “We are poor here, and trying to get poorer.” Imagine a family taking a road trip across our state and finding at every pit stop a makeshift casino. This isn’t the rural way of life we are trying to portray in our corner of the state.
I am for Missouri. I am for economic development. I am for supporting Missouri families and Missouri values and to lift people out of poverty. That is precisely why I am against video lottery terminals. They strip communities and Missourians of resources, contribute to poverty and gambling addictions, and perpetuate behaviors that we should be dissuading not encouraging. I ask Missourians to consider if gambling is a reliable pathway towards economic development and if they would want that in their own communities. We need to make our voices heard to our state officials.
We cannot allow lottery video gambling to expand in our state.
Rachael Freeman is the Executive Director of the Cassville Chamber of Commerce