JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In an overflowing Senate hearing room, stakeholders laid out their arguments for and against implementing a video lottery terminal system.
The Senate Progress and Development Committee held a public hearing for Sen. Denny Hoskins’ SB 43 on Tuesday. The measure would establish the Missouri Video Lottery Control Act and allow for various establishments — such as restaurants and gas stations — to install video lottery game terminals.
“My primary goal in filing this legislation is to raise revenue for Missouri community colleges, universities, and elementary and secondary education,” said Hoskins.
Those on both sides of the issue highlighted economics, impacts on the state, and employment.
Supporters argued that the bill will bring in additional revenue for the state and create jobs. Opponents argued that the bill will hurt casinos, forcing them to reduce employees, and that it will hurt the communities benefited by casinos. One lawmaker raised concerns about minors having access to the machines and being more exposed to gambling.
The measure proposed by Hoskins laid out a framework for the use of player-activated video terminals for the conduct of lottery games. The lottery commission would be placed in charge of oversight.
Municipalities would be able to opt out, Hoskins noted.
Establishments with liquor licenses that would be able to have such terminals would include fraternal organizations, veterans’ organizations, truck stops equipped for fueling commercial vehicles, convenience stores equipped for fueling vehicles, bars, taverns, restaurants, grocery stores, or liquor stores.
The initial license and first renewal would be for a 1-year period. Thereafter, the renewal period would be for 4 years. Annual license fees would be $5,000 for video lottery game manufacturers and video lottery game distributors; $5,000 for video lottery game operators; $50 for video lottery game handlers; and $500 for each video lottery game retailer’s establishment. Each video lottery game terminal would be charged $200.
Thirty-six percent of the video lottery game adjusted gross receipts would go to the state lottery fund.
Supporters stressed the positive economic impact that video lottery terminals would have on the state. Expanding gambling to allow for these machines, supporters said, would bring in additional state revenues and would spark economic activity.
“The fiscal note projects an additional $36 million to the state at the end of year one, $81 million to the state at the end of year two, and $126 million to the state at the end of year three,” said Hoskins.
Supporters argued that the bill will boost jobs and the economy. It was noted that casinos in other states saw a slight drop in revenue but video lottery terminals still have a net positive impact.
On the same token, opponents argued that the bill would have a negative economic impact.
It was argued that casinos will be hurt by the legislation and have a drastic drop in revenue, which will, in turn, hurt the communities they invest in and the revenue the state collects from.
Several city mayors argued that the measure would hurt their local economies and economies around the state.
“The impact to our city is going to be with gaming admissions, release rental that we get from the casino, and sales tax,” said Kathy Rose, the Mayor of Riverside. “I really believe that it is certainly not in the best interest of my city and certainly not in the best interest of the state.”
Sen. Kiki Curls’ main concern with the bill was in regards to minors.
“…kids come in and buy chips or candy or soda…I am concerned about the thought of there being a row of slot machines right there at the doorway,” said Curls.
Ron Leone, executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, noted that there are requirements in the bill to address the machines and minors and that the bill is still a work in progress.
“It works in other states and the sky hasn’t fallen in those other states,” said Leone.
Alisha Shurr was a reporter for The Missouri Times and The Missouri Times Magazine. She joined The Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University.