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Amendment 9 to allow boats-in-moats

October 22, 1998
By: Najeeb Hasan 874-1507
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Constitutional Amendment 9 on Missouri's general election ballot is the so-called "boats in moats" issue. If adopted, it would permit casino riverboats to conduct games of chance in artificial basins near the main channels of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

The amendment would allow the gambling riverboats to operate within 1,000 feet of the closest edge of either river. As interpreted in a recent decision from Missouri's Supreme Court, the present wording of the Constitution limits gambling boats to the main channels of the two rivers.

Legislative staff estimate the fiscal impact for state and local governments is the continuation of between $95 million and $175 million in revenue contributed by moat-based gambling boats that the state Gaming Commission staff have identified as in violation of the Supreme Court's decision banning moat-based gambling.

Riverboat gambling was first authorized by Missouri voters in 1991.

Pros:

The gambling industry contends discontinuing riverboat gambling in moats would take away a significant portion of the tax dollars the industry provides Missouri, funding for education and the jobs of more than 10,000 workers on the riverboats in question.

Don Posten, a spokesperson for Missourians for Fairness and Jobs - an organization that represents the workers on the riverboats, said passing the amendment would be fair to companies that have already invested billions of dollars in building Casino riverboats.

Cons:

However, the gambling industry has met a stiff opposition from religious and social organizations bent of defeating the amendment. These groups claim that 10 of the existing 16 riverboats are illegal under the current wording of the constitution. Preaching the dangers of obsessive gambling and allowing the gambling industry to spread without regulation, opposition groups maintain Amendment 9 must not be passed.

The gambling industry also faces opposition from some environmental organizations who claim the boats-in-moats are detrimental to Missouri's flood plains.