State Senate Bill Would Permit Video Lottery Games

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A measure now under study in the Missouri Senate would authorize the use of video lottery game terminals in the state as a way of raising revenue for education.

Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, whose district includes Livingston and Caldwell counties, filed the Missouri Video Lottery Control Act for consideration this session. On Friday, Jan. 26, Hoskins appeared at a legislative forum in Chillicothe, Missouri, where he told constituents about the bill.

The senator said the proposal is favored by the state’s convenience stores, which would be prominent among retail locations for the terminals. But the idea faces opposition primarily from Missouri’s casino industry — which would stand to lose revenue to the games. Hoskins is touting his proposal as a means for supplying needed funds for higher education, as well as elementary and secondary education.

The act would allow the State Lottery Commission to implement the terminals and issue licenses to manufacturers, operators, handlers and retailers. It stipulates that operators may not have more than five terminals per retail establishment, yet allow fraternal or veterans’ organizations to have up to 10 terminals apiece.

The operators would pay 36 percent of the video lottery game’s adjusted gross receipts. The first $100 million of adjusted gross receipts would be appropriated to institutions of higher education. Remaining gross receipts would be devoted to elementary and secondary education, including virtual courses.

The blog webgaming.info differentiates video lottery terminals, which has been introduced in various states, from slot machines. For instance, a lottery game would involve a fixed number of winners — whereas slot machines typically only have one winner. Video lottery terminals are all linked together in a network, meaning players don’t compete against each other. The games are pre-programmed to pay winners at designated times and feature a fixed number of wins and losses.

Convenience store owners in St. Joseph have no opinion as yet on the new concept that obviously hasn’t seen any exposure. However, a state association that represents them favors the idea.

“It’s optional,” said Ron Leone, executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association. “No retailer is required to carry the games unless they feel it’s appropriate for their particular customers at a particular location … Budgets are tight, and it will provide more tax revenue for state and local coffers.”

Leone added that only adults 21 years old and over can play the games.

“My members are very good at offering age-restricted products and services, including tobacco products and alcohol,” he said.

Affinity Gaming, which owns St. Jo Frontier Casino, and the lottery commission itself, said their organizations don’t take positions on pending legislation.

A hearing on Hoskins’ bill was held Thursday, Jan. 25, before the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, has filed a similar bill in the Missouri House of Representatives.

Ray Scherer can be reached at ray.scherer@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPScherer.

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