Missouri Lawmaker to Propose Dollar Increase to Casino Admission Fee

Forthcoming legislation in Missouri will propose to increase the state’s casino admission fee by at least a dollar, with the added revenue going to support veterans’ nursing homes.

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Missouri Rep. Dave Griffith wants to increase entry taxes that casinos pay to better fund veterans’ nursing homes. The state’s 13 riverboats say more taxes will hurt their businesses. (Image: Missouri House Communications)

State Rep. Dave Griffith (R-Jefferson City) on Monday told the Missouri Veterans Commission that he will again introduce legislation in the Jefferson City capital that seeks to increase the state admission tax that the riverboat casinos pay. Griffith believes it’s time to increase the $2 admission tax, which has remained unchanged since Missourians legalized riverboat gambling through a statewide ballot referendum in 1992.

Griffith, who filed a similar bill during the 2021 legislative session that failed to muster support, says the state needs to better fund its seven veterans nursing homes. A $1 increase to the casino admission tax could raise substantial new revenue.

The admission fee currently supports the Veterans Commission Capital Improvement Trust Fund, which during the state’s 2023 fiscal year received more than $11.24 million. The entry tax also supports the Missouri National Guard, scholarship assistance, and the Compulsive Gamblers Fund.

The state’s 21% tax levied on gross gaming revenue primarily supports K-12 public education.

Entry Revenue

Casinos don’t pass along the entry fee to their patrons but instead pay the admission tax directly to the state. The state’s 13 riverboats counted 14.7 million patron entries in FY2023. Entry numbers have steadily declined over the past decade, with the boats counting more than 22.2 million admissions in 2014.

The Missouri Gaming Association, which represents the state’s casinos, is opposed to Griffith’s proposal. The trade group says the increased fare will result in reduced capital improvement projects and fewer incentives for players. Staffing levels could also be impacted, the casino interests say.

Griffith says if lawmakers aren’t willing to budge on increasing the $2 fare, another option is to legalize sports betting and use those taxes for veterans’ nursing homes. A bipartisan bill to allow the state’s riverboats to incorporate sportsbooks and also partner with online sportsbook platforms stalled earlier this year after gaining support in the House.

House Bill 556 passed the lower chamber by a 118-35 vote. But the measure was filibustered by state Sen. Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg).

Hoskins is supportive of legalizing sports betting but says any further expansion of gaming in the state must also include a regulatory framework for controversial “no-chance” gaming machines that are common in convenience stores, gas stations, restaurants, and bars.

Hoskins in June announced his candidacy for Missouri secretary of state, but that election isn’t until Nov. 5, 2024, meaning he’ll likely still be in the Senate next March when the General Assembly convenes.

Veterans Nursing Home Funding

Missouri operates seven nursing homes reserved for veterans. The Veterans Commission, a unit of the Missouri Department of Public Safety, says it’s struggled in recent years to adequately staff the facilities, which has led to reduced bed counts.

However, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that efforts by Gov. Mike Parson (R) to increase salaries for state employees have resulted in a hiring surge at the nursing homes. More nurses and medical staffers have allowed the nursing homes to increase their bed count by about 14% since June.

The salary increases have been one of the largest benefits to our recruiting,” Missouri Veterans Commission HR Director Paul Imhoff told the media outlet. “We’ve seen some good outcomes.”

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