Archive for Thursday, July 12, 2001

Playing the game

July 12, 2001

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Does Kansas want to follow Missouri's lead by splitting the take from casino gambling?

The casinos always win. This week's report from the Missouri Gaming Commission offers some food for thought for people who enjoy casino gambling.

For the fiscal year that ended June 30, Missouri's nine riverboat casinos reported total revenue of $1.05 billion. That was a 7.3 percent increase from the $977 million in revenue reported the previous year, the commission said.

And guess what else was up. You got it, the average loss per gambler. In Kansas City, the average loss was $47.86 per visit, an increase of 10 percent from the previous year. The average loss in St. Louis casinos was even higher: $51.32 per visit.

For some people that may be a reasonable price for an evening's entertainment. For those who lose more than the average or who visit casinos often, those losses can add up.

Speaking of adding up, it's not just the high rollers who contribute to casino revenues. Interestingly, the reports indicated that casinos are literally "nickel and diming" their patrons. New small-denomination slot machines that accept dimes, nickels and even pennies now account for about 20 percent of the total casino revenue, according to an Argosy casino official. That has grown in recent months from about 8 percent of the total.

The figures are something to think about before the next time you head to the casino.

But here's something else to think about. The $1.05 billion in casino revenues for last year was the total before other expenses, such as payroll and state gambling taxes. The state of Missouri collected $300 million in gambling taxes off the casino industry last year. Much of that money is used to support public schools.

It's tempting. Given the tight funding situation that is expected to exist in Topeka next year, there seems little doubt that the legalization of casino gambling again will be on the table in the 2002 session of the Kansas Legislature. The $300 million collected by Missouri would only pay for about half of a funding plan unveiled on Tuesday by a coalition of Kansas education groups. It's what they say is needed to make up for years of inadequate state funding for public schools.

Does Kansas want to use casinos to take money away from parents probably disproportionately from low-income parents to pay for their children's education? It's an interesting dilemma and one the state probably will face again in 2002.

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