A bill moving through the Missouri legislature would allow the state’s 13 casinos to issue gambling loans, secured by the gamblers’ bank accounts.
Casino executives say offering credit would help them attract high-end players from states that don’t want to carry large amounts of cash or incur high fees for using credit cards to withdraw money.
The casino industry has sought the bill for years but the measure has gained momentum this year. The Missouri House passed it last month by a vote of 132-25.
Patrons would complete credit applications and undergo credit checks. Then, if approved, a gambler would receive a marker, or promissory note, agreeing to repay the money within 30 days, free of interest. The patron would exchange the marker for electronic tokens and chips to wager at the casino. If the money wasn’t repaid in 30 days, the casino could take the money out of the borrower’s checking account.
Amendments to the bill may be offered when it comes up for a vote Tuesday in the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and Environment Committee. But if the Senate ultimately supports the measure, and Gov. Jay Nixon signs it, Missouri will have repealed the last of the safeguards in the original state law that voters passed in 1992 upon legalizing riverboat gambling.
Boosting out-of-state tourism was the main reason supporters cited for passing the bill. Lobbyist John Bardgett, speaking for the St. Louis County Economic Council and the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, said tourism officials told him that when they recruit groups, one of the first questions asked is whether the St. Louis area has casinos and, “Is credit available?”
Fourteen states have land-based or riverboat casinos, but only four bar casinos from granting credit, according to the Missouri Gaming Association, a casino trade group. Besides Missouri, the others with prohibitions on loans are Colorado, Iowa and Kansas. Casino credit is allowed in Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.