A Missouri Senate committee on Tuesday defeated a bill that would have allowed casinos to extend credit to customers. The vote surprised supporters, including Sen. Joe Keaveny, who said he doubts there is time to revive it this year since the legislative session ends May 17.
The state's Senate Commerce, Energy and Environment Committee deadlocked 4-4 on the measure, with two members absent. Tie votes kill bills.
The casino industry has been trying for years to repeal the prohibition on extending credit, which was part of the law passed by voters when riverboat gambling was legalized in 1992. The measure finally gained momentum this year and the Missouri House passed it last month by a vote of 132-25.
Supporters have said the bill would boost tourism. Casino executives have said 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.
Patrons would have had to complete credit applications and undergo credit checks. Then, if approved, a gambler would have received a marker, or promissory note, agreeing to repay the money within 30 days, free of interest. The patron would have been able to 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.
Opponents argued the legislation was not geared solely to high rollers. Average Missourians would get in trouble if they had access to credit while gambling, the critics said.
Mark Andrews of Casino Watch, an anti-gambling group, sent a letter to the committee to urge a “no” vote. He cited a 2006 Florida study that said access to credit accelerates the problems of addicted gamblers.
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.