Missouri: The Bizarre Pairing of Education and Gambling

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Missouri may bring us another example of a "sin tax" that results in state government promoting the "sin." If Proposition A survives legal challenges, Missouri voters will be asked to approve the ballot initiative which would limit the number of Missouri casinos, raise the gaming tax to increase school funding, and eliminate the loss limit. There are a lot of competing interests represented by the initiative, which explains why there are legal challenges in the works against the proposal. It would increase funding for education, which pleases most people. It would limit the number of casinos, which pleases voters opposed to gambling. And it would let people lose as much as they want to lose, which pleases casinos and compulsive gamblers. Some may see this initiative as an odd collection of conflicting goals, while others might see it as a clever compromise. Either way, one issue left unresolved is the uncertainty over how much revenue could really be raised over the long-term in this manner. This uncertainty, along with the ethical issues involved, should prod Missouri lawmakers to see the limits in this type of quick fix and start considering a more adequate and progressive income tax.

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