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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • That's What I Think: Councilman Morris shows integrity

  • At the March 3 Rolla City Council meeting, a couple of representatives of the Rolla Elks Lodge spoke to the council members about supporting, at least in principle, what the reps were calling an Internet cafe.
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  • At the March 3 Rolla City Council meeting, a couple of representatives of the Rolla Elks Lodge spoke to the council members about supporting, at least in principle, what the reps were calling an Internet cafe.
    After a couple of minutes, it was clear that what they were wanting to do was offer an opportunity for gaming, or as we crusty old-timers call it, gambling.
    The lodge spokespeople, identified on the agenda as George Ashford and Judy Patton, explained that the lodge no longer offered bingo gambling, I mean bingo gaming, and they were looking for a way to raise some money for charitable causes.
    They mentioned they need money to support their Cub Scout den and to keep the building open as a polling place during elections.
    Moreover, they said the lodge wants to open a soup kitchen for poor folks. They have served holiday dinners to the disadvantaged, and they wanted to have the opportunity to help those folks more often. Helping the disadvantaged is a wonderful ministry, and any organization that wants to do that ought to be supported.
    However, I question the means to that end.
    It seems to me that offering gambling as a way to raise money to help the needy and desperate is a mistake.
    Offering gambling in the community as a way to help folks is just not logical. Of course, we have gambling in the form of the lottery and bingo and something called Keno.
    With so much gambling offered in the community, maybe just one more outlet wouldn’t hurt.
    Councilman Steven Leonard, whose job as the chief of staff over at Big Louie’s night club in St. Robert has made him familiar with such things as the Internet cafe gaming, explained that it is basically a slot machine. It is on a computer screen, not a “one-armed bandit” machine (something I’ve never seen but heard of), but it is nevertheless a slot machine.
    There was considerable discussion about what the council should do now that the subject had been broached by the Elks.
    The fact is, according to City Counselor Lance Thurman, the proposition put before the council is clear and simply illegal. But there is just no way for the state to enforce the law.
    Chances are, then, the Elks could start the Internet cafe and operate it and no one would ever move to stop them.
    Councilman Leonard said a bar in town offered such a machine for years until the bar closed. I guess it was because the gamblers couldn’t smoke inside the city limits.
    Mayor Bill Jenks said he believed the council ought not do anything one way or the other. He noted that the St. Pat’s Board has for many years offered gaming at its Casino Night. There are other charitable groups that raise money with gaming techniques.
    Page 2 of 2 - “You’re saying we just look the other way,” Councilman Lou Magdits noted, and Jenks said that he would approach the situation with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” viewpoint.
    “What about the rest of the community?” Magdits asked.
    Councilman Leonard said that it ought to be just left alone. “I say we do nothing.”
    “If it’s illegal, we don’t need to mess with it,” said Councilman Jim Williams.
    Another councilman, who I think was Jonathan Hines, said the whole deal was legally “ambiguous,” so the council should do nothing.
    And Counselor Thurman said, “We would encourage you to follow all state law.”
    So the council took no action. It did not give its imprimatur to the Elks Lodge’s plan, so it did not technically voice its support.
    On the other hand, it was not clear from all the statements whether the councilmen actually opposed it or just didn’t want to get the council’s hands dirty in case the lodge started the cafe and state officials came around and somehow actually did enforce the law.
    They were a little wishy-washy.
    Only Councilman Don Morris had the most clearly stated position, and it was a position against the Elks Lodge’s plan.
    “I really appreciate what you’re trying to do,” Morris told the lodge reps, but he continued, telling the reps that the council has a civic responsibility to set a high moral standard in the community.
    Consequently, he said, there is “no way I would endorse anything like this.”
    Morris said, “I commend you on what you want to do with the money,” but he said, “I can’t agree with the way you want to raise the money. I can’t support anything like this.”
    Now that right there is some integrity.

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