New bill would regulate gas station lottery games

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JEFFERSON CITY - A new Senate bill could put video lottery games in places outside of casinos.

Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, is sponsoring the Missouri Video Lottery Control Act, which had its hearing on Tuesday afternoon. He said the bill is necessary to stop the prevalence of “gray games,” or unregulated video lottery terminals, going up across the state.

“I think it’s only fair and reasonable that we regulate those - put a fair tax on the income and revenue that can go towards education,” Hoskins said.

Hoskins said Missourians could expect the games to show up everywhere from gas stations to grocery stores.

But the bill could create more temptations for gambling addicts.

Suzanne Pearman knows about the issue firsthand, as her husband struggled with alcohol and drug dependencies. She is also a facilitator of Mid-Missouri SMART Support, a new group for people with dependencies including gambling. Pearman said more access to video lottery games is the same thing as more liquor stores going up.

“It’s no different than for people that drink alcohol. It’s everywhere,” Pearman said. “It’s no different than for overeaters; they can’t not be around food. It’s the same as those types of dependencies.”

The bill includes a section stating that players can “self-exclude” by adding themselves to a confidential list kept by game operators. Pearman said she doesn’t foresee this list helping gambling addicts with their urges.

“There’s no reference to any type of support for gambling-dependent people besides a list that may or may not be helpful,” Pearman said.

Hoskins said limits on the games were created with the gambling-dependent population in mind.

“One of the things we’ve put as a safeguard in my bill is that it has a $5 maximum bet and $1,000 maximum winning,” Hoskins said.

The bill’s fiscal note projects over $120 million in revenue, which Hoskins proposes goes towards education. Pearman said this leaves out a more relevant population.

“What would also be nice to see is some government funding going to dependency issues, gambling being one of them,” Pearman said.

Hoskins has filed the same bill in two previous sessions, but said he is optimistic for its success this year.