Rep. Dave Griffith (R-Jefferson City) told the Missouri Veterans Commission that the state should increase its current admission tax paid by riverboat casinos.
According to multiple media resources, Griffith plans to introduce new legislation in January. The legislation, which hasn’t changed since the early 1990s, would increase the $2 admission tax by at least $1 to support the state’s seven nursing homes.
However, the Missouri Gaming Association (MGA) has strongly opposed raising the admission fee.
Griffith says if lawmakers aren’t willing to back up the $2 fare, another option would be to legalize sports betting. He believes money from revenue taxes could be used for veterans’ nursing homes.
Missouri regulators oppose Griffith’s proposal, worry about declining numbers
The Missouri Gaming Association has expressed it is strictly against raising the admission fee. The organization represents the state’s 13 riverboat casinos and has been in the middle of negotiations over legalizing sports betting.
The association said the increased fare would hurt Missouri casinos, resulting in decreased capital improvement projects and fewer player inducements. The casinos fear staffing could be impacted, too.
Casino visitors don’t pay entrance fees directly, which remains unchanged since the state legalized riverboat casinos in 1992. Half of the profits go to the state, while the other half goes to the local city or county.
For the time being, the money from admission fees supports:
- Veterans Commission Capital Improvement Trust Fund
- Missouri National Guard
- MO College Guarantee/Access Assistance Missouri Financial Assistance Fund
- Compulsive Gamblers Fund
The state’s commercial casinos generated $158.5M in September 2023 gaming revenue, showing an increase from the same period last year. However, August and July represented slight yearly declines.
And if we look at the Fiscal Year 2023, the state’s riverboats counted 14.7 million player entries. That number continues to fall compared to earlier years and the period before the pandemic.
Decreasing figures bring worry to the state regulators, as the commission receives most of its operating revenue from the state’s gambling sources and marijuana taxes.
Previous attempts to raise riverboat casino admission tax failed
This is Griffith’s second attempt after introducing a similar proposal during the 2021 legislative session. The proposal fell short due to the lack of the necessary support.
In 2012, former Gov. Jay Nixon attempted to raise the fee by $1 but was unsuccessful. The casinos argued it would take $53 million out of profits annually and rouse cuts in marketing, capital projects, and staffing.
Seven years later, Sen. Mike Bernskoetter introduced legislation that would have generated $39.7 million annually. Bernskoetter’s proposal included raising the fee by $1 to help pay for a new museum in the capital city with riverboats but did not advance.
This time around, Griffith is trying to help pay for employees in the understaffed facilities to allow the homes to serve more residents. Although Griffith’s attempt at change will have support from the Missouri Association of Veterans Organizations, his proposal would face tough opposition from vested interest groups.