JEFFERSON CITY - Gaming lobbyists said Tuesday that they want gamblers in Missouri to walk into a casino, free of cash or credit cards, and still be able to make bets at tables.
Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst is sponsoring a bill that would let gamblers do just that. He said many major events come to Missouri and visitors want the ability to use credit to gamble in the state.
"People traveling around the country do not want to carry checkbooks and take the risk of identity theft through credit cards," said Scharnhorst, R-St. Louis County.
A representative of a national anti-gambling organization opposed the bill in an interview after a hearing on Scharnhorst's bill. Tom Grey, senior adviser for the organization Stop Predatory Gambling, said gambling clients should only be allowed to make bets with the money they bring into the facility.
"If you can't lose what you carry in, you ought not go in," Grey said.
A lobbyist for Missouri's gambling industry said a house bill would allow casinos to loan money to cutomers, therefore providing a convenience for them and increse money coming into the state.
"I do think it is a loss of tourism, a loss of revenue to the industry and also tax revenue to the state," said Troy Stremming with Ameristar Casinos in Kansas City and St.Charles.
The Senate Commerce Committee heard the bill on Tuesday and it would allow Missouri gambling boats, ferries or floating facilities to give customers a line of credit in exchange for chips, tokens, or the ability to play other gambling games.
To receive the loan, customers will have to fill out an an application and get a background financial check. These customers would have no more than 30 days to pay the loan back to the gambling facility.
National anti-gambling organizations say the gaming industry leads to debt and these ogranizations oppose legislation that support gambling.
Grey said politicians are only looking at the money casinos bring in and not the harmful effects they can cause their customers.
"When public elected officials will do anything to preserve the money side of this, they're addictive to that revenue," Grey said.
Neil Walkoff, a reprensative of multiple gambling facilites including Pennicle Entertainment, told the Senate committee that the background check will determine if customers have enough money to gamble through loans.
"There's a lot of factors we look at to make sure they have disposable income," Walkoff said.
The bill also came under attack by Baptists. Kerry Messer with the Missouri Baptist Convention said the bill in it's current form isn't directed at just high rollers who gamble. He also said under the bill, customer's personal property aren't safe from civil lawsuits if the loan isn't repaid.
The Senate Committee didn't take an immediate vote on the bill. It must now pass the committee before it moves to a vote on the full Senate floor.