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Gambling issue placed on ballot

Thursday, October 30, 2008

OREGON COUNTY -- Thayer Superintendent of Schools Rod Priest is not sure what he thinks about Proposition A that will appear on the Nov. 4 General Election ballot in Missouri.

"This is not a school initiative. It is a gambling issue, that yes, schools could benefit from," he said.

If the issue should pass, it will generate additional dollars for public schools, however, Priest says the issue was not developed to increase funding for schools but to remove the loss limit on gambling boats in the state.

"Proposition A is sponsored by the Gambling Industry in Missouri. The current loss limit is $500. If a person loses $500 at a casino they are required to stop gambling. If Proposition A passes, there will be no more loss limit. People will be allowed to stay and gamble and possibly lose a lot of money," Priest said.

He has mixed feelings about the issue. "All public schools in the state need more funds. I'm just not sure this is the right way to get them," he said.

He said the issue would also limit the number of casinos in the state allowing only the ones now in operation to exist.

"More or less, what the proposition means is the more money a person loses gambling in the state, the more money school districts will receive," he said.

A portion of the ballot language on Proposition A reads, "Create a new specific education fund from gambling tax proceeds generated as a result of this measure called the Schools First Elementary and Secondary Education Improvement Fund" and require annual audits of this new fund."

Supporters of the issue, including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said if passed, $105 to $130 million per year in new revenues would be provided for elementary and secondary education statewide.

Supporters also said Missouri is the only state where a loss limit exists. They say the Proposition will allow Missouri to compete for casino visitors on an equal basis with other states.

"Like I said before, our school district needs funds. I don't want to give up the money but I don't want to support gambling either," he said.



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