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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Missouri's Loss Limit Unique Among Gaming States

25 October 2006

Every state with sanctioned casinos has a program in force to allow citizens to self-exclude themselves if they feel gambling is a problem for them. Stiff criminal penalties are enforced in a majority of cases for people who break their self-imposed curfews by entering a casino illegally.

Casinos in their advertising and via in-house signage and literature distribution must inform customers who are at risk of gambling addiction of the organizations to call for assistance.

The state of Missouri, however, utilizes a law that is unique among gaming states. It enforces an automated loss limit tracking system that restricts the amount of out-of-pocket money a gambler may lose during any one session to $500.

The system has been in place ever since riverboat gambling began there in 1994, and in spite of periodic pressure applied to the state legislature to lift the restriction, it remains in force at all 11 of the casino destinations in the "Show Me" state.

Iowa, the first state to legalize riverboat gambling, enforced a loss limit in the beginning but quickly withdrew it when droves of gamblers began crossing the border for the opportunity to bet as much as they wanted at the newly opened casinos in Illinois.

Even though the casino barges and riverboats in Missouri are permanently docked, each day is still broken down into what are known as "phantom excursions" of two hours in duration. No gambler on a Missouri riverboat can lose more money out-of-pocket than $500 during any single excursion.

Every gambler must have their player's card swiped before they enter a Missouri casino. This process activates the system that will monitor how much they bet. Unless you use that card when you play the slots or buy in at a table game, you can't gamble.

The restriction is controversial, even among officials who regulate gaming in the state. For example, Clarence Greeno, Missouri's Gaming Enforcement Manager, told me: "I think the loss limit puts us at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states and prevents Missouri from becoming an entertainment destination."

The $500 loss limit affects slot play to a degree but it especially impacts the revenue generating powers of the table games, where single bet maximums are measured in the tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars elsewhere around the country.

The gambling industry in Missouri is no small-time operation. Many of the nation's major companies, including Harrah's Entertainment, Ameristar, Isle of Capri and Argosy have made huge capital investments in high quality casino hotel complexes in the St. Louis and Kansas City regions.

There's no doubt the state could generate much more revenue and the gaming companies more profit if the loss limit didn't exist, but Greeno hinted that at this point it's a matter of principal more than anything:

"Legislators vote the conscious of their constituents," he explained, "and there's a strong feeling in this state that voters feel the loss limit helps protect people from losing too much money."

Greeno acknowledged that gambling addiction is no less of a problem in Missouri than it is in other states in spite of the loss limit, saying "pathological gamblers have a problem regardless of how much money they can bet".

Even with the restriction, Missouri has more than 10,000 people on the state's self exclusion list, which under present regulations bans such a person from entering a casino for life and subjects violators to criminal arrest for trespassing.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp