Last updated: August 01. 2014 2:03PM - 390 Views
By Pat Pratt ppratt@civitasmedia.com

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Voters will decide on a new Missouri Lottery ticket Aug. 5, with proceeds going to the Missouri Veterans Commission Capital Improvement Trust Fund to be used for construction, maintenance and renovation needs of veterans’ homes and for other veterans services.

If approved, Missouri Constitutional Amendment 8 will amend Section 39(b) of Article III of the Missouri Constitution to read:

“No later than July 1, 2015, the state lottery commission shall develop and begin selling a “Veterans Lottery Ticket,” and all net proceeds received from the sales of such tickets shall be deposited solely in the veterans commission capital improvement trust fund, as provided by law.”

Proponents say the lottery would help fund the state’s seven veterans home, which have 1,800 on the waiting list. They point out that Kansas, Iowa and Illinois have veterans’ lotteries and have raised millions annually.

One of the major criticisms of Amendment 8 is that it will take money from the education coffers. Approximately 24.5 cents of every dollar spent on the Missouri Lottery benefits Missouri’s public education programs.

Gary Gill, a local veteran and former Smithton teacher, said while he plans to vote in favor of the ticket, he has mixed feelings about it. He referred to the Missouri Lotto slogan “Play it Forward” while describing the dilemma of using gambling proceeds to fund two things near and dear to many Missourians: education and veterans.

“’Playing it forward’ is one of the most fraudulent advertising campaigns ever. You’re justifying people to go spend a ton of money, but it’s OK because you’re paying it forward,” Gill said. “Why are we approaching things this way? Education is one of the most important investments we can make in the future, and we are trying to fund part of it from gambling proceeds.”

He continued that funding veterans’ causes through gambling does not make a lot of sense to him either. Veterans, in his opinion, are one of the most valuable assets to our society because they have “Played it Forward,” in a far different sense.

“If you are put in harm’s way, you have ‘played it forward.’ Even if you are not put in harms way, which a majority of soldiers are not, they have given up their lives and their time to the service of our country,” Gill said.

“Why are we paying for things to help and assist veterans through gambling proceeds? Are we saying we are gambling on veterans? Are we are gambling on education? It kind of appears that way.”

In years past, a portion of casino revenues, federal dollars and an average $2,000 per month boarding fee provided veteran’s services. However, according to the Associated Press, fewer people are visiting and spending money at Missouri’s 13 casinos, leaving lawmakers to scramble for a solution. That solution came in the form of Amendment 8, a veterans lottery ticket.

Another drawback, according to Gill, is that many veterans will end up purchasing the ticket to support other veterans, while they themselves are on fixed incomes.

“Encouraging veterans on fixed incomes to buy a veterans ticket, because it’s a veterans ticket or to ‘pay it forward’ by going to the casinos, there is a huge irony here. Somehow politically, I don’t think we have our heads screwed on straight,” said Gill.

Missouri Statute established the Missouri Veterans Commission Capital Improvement Trust Fund, which will oversee the money from the ticket sales if the measure is approved.

The funds are used for the construction, maintenance, renovation, or equipment needs of homes; construction, maintenance, renovation, equipment needs and operation of cemeteries; and fund transfers to the Missouri Veterans Homes Fund to maintain the solvency of that fund. It also funds the medallion recognition programs.

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