The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 7, 2012

Other Views: Bad bet

The Kansas City Star

— When Missouri legalized casino gambling in the early 1990s, it came with certain restrictions, both geographical and monetary.

Casinos had to be actual vessels, limited to certain rivers.

And no high rolling here: Gamblers’ losses were limited to $500 every two hours.

Both of those restrictions vanished in the ensuing years. Now the casinos want to take another big step: They want to be able to make loans to their patrons.

Yes, they’re serious. They want to allow people to gamble with borrowed money. With little fanfare or debate, a measure to that effect was attached to a banking bill in the House and endorsed 13-1 by the House Financial Institutions Committee.

Rep. Scott Largent, a Clinton Republican who is sponsoring the measure, has said the change would eliminate an inconvenience for high-rolling athletes and others who find it inconvenient to carry $20,000 or $30,000 in cash.

Supporters note that casinos in Illinois are allowed to make loans to patrons — and on the eastern side of the state, high-rolling gamblers go to Illinois, rather than to Missouri facilities.

Well, Illinois is not usually offered as an exemplar of wise public policy, and this would serve as one more example. Willingness to put borrowed money at risk in a casino is a classic sign of gambling addiction. Allowing such loans would exponentially worsen the social consequences.

Casino loans for gamblers is a truly bad idea, and the measure should be killed.

The Kansas City Star