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Archive for Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Who’s counting?

At least for now, the opportunity to lose more money more quickly could give a Wyandotte County casino the edge over its Missouri competition.

May 28, 2008

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For anyone who's still ambivalent about the expansion of casino gambling in Kansas, it's a little disconcerting to learn that potential casino developers see the state as prime territory because, unlike Missouri, it places no limits on how much someone can lose in a casino.

Developers who are ready to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build a casino in Wyandotte County are saying that the loss limit is one of the primary reasons they believe they can compete with existing casinos located just across the state line in Missouri.

It's perhaps appropriate that developers who are banking on the lack of a loss limit in Kansas to give them a competitive edge are taking a calculated risk. As we speak, pro-education forces in Missouri are campaigning hard to do away with the Missouri law that limits the amount of money a single player can lose in two hours to $500.

Missouri's riverboat casinos currently pay a 20 percent tax on their adjusted gross receipts. The Schools First Initiative hopes to ask Missouri voters in November to raise that amount to 21 percent. And to try to lure additional visitors and gamblers to the state, the initiative also wants to remove what it calls the "outdated $500 chip limit."

The limit, which was part of the 1992 law that allowed riverboat casinos in Missouri, was seen as a way to try to curb problem gambling in the state. Supporters of the limit say it has worked well and not affected casino profits in Missouri.

Although a loss limit might go a long way toward easing the fears of gambling opponents in Kansas and elsewhere, Missouri is the only state that has such a limit, according to the Schools First Initiative. Given the tight financial situation of most states, it seems far more likely that Missouri will drop its limit than it does that other states will add one. If that happens, there goes the Wyandotte County advantage.

Kansas already is counting on revenue from expanded gambling operations to fund important parts of the state budget. The only way casinos - or states - make money is if players lose. Perhaps we shouldn't be concerned about who is losing that money or how much they lose. The problem is that we're pretty sure some of them are losing money they really can't spare.

Supporters of expanded Kansas gambling say that Kansans are going to gamble and our state should reap the benefit from that. On that theory, we should be glad that gamblers from Missouri, for whatever reason, might also want to cross the state line and leave some money in Kansas. It's a little unseemly, however, to think that they might be motivated by the opportunity to lose even more money more quickly in a Kansas casino.

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