Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Horrigan: Tax Increases for Seniors, Tax Cuts for Fantasy Sports. Your Legislature at Work

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Horrigan: Tax Increases for Seniors, Tax Cuts for Fantasy Sports. Your Legislature at Work

Article excerpt

Last week the Missouri House of Representatives, in keeping with the state's motto of "the well-being of the people is the supreme law," voted to pass a budget that whacks $56 million in annual property tax credits for 105,000 seniors and disabled persons who rent their homes.

This happened Tuesday, the day after the same Missouri House voted to cut the tax rate paid by operators of "fantasy sports" companies. Instead of paying 11.5 percent of net revenue, they'd pay only 6 percent. Small companies also would get a break on licensing fees.

This would cost the state about $342,000 in tax revenue, not nearly enough to cover the $56 million cost of extending the property tax credit for those 105,000 elderly and disabled renters. But it speaks to priorities.

At a time when the state faces a $572 million budget shortfall, when money is so tight that senior citizens and disabled persons are taking it in the shorts, the Legislature is still passing out corporate tax breaks. It's like an addiction.

And not to corporations that provide good jobs, nor to farmers who grow our food, but to people who have a couple of computers and run what are essentially bookmaking operations. They take money from one group of players and give it to another group of players and scrape off a taste for their trouble.

For those who came in late, fantasy sports contestants study statistics, pick a bunch of athletes whose statistics on any given metric over any given period will outperform others and lay their credit card numbers down.

There's some dispute about who started it, but it began about 40 years ago as a harmless diversion among friends. Computers and smartphones did away with the drudgery of compiling statistics by hand and actually having to show up with cash. After Congress exempted fantasy sports in a 2006 bill that regulated credit card use for online gambling, the business exploded.

House Budget Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, who admits to dabbling in fantasy sports himself, is the sponsor of the fantasy sports bill (HB 502). He says the idea is to encourage small companies trying to break into the business against the likes of industry giants FanDuel and DraftKings.

Whenever the Legislature passes out a tax break, they claim it's to encourage "small business," though the big boys save most of the money.

The big boys have been busy in recent years because many states were leery of the fantasy sports industry. In Texas, for example, where the issue is being debated this year, they can't decide if it's a game of skill or a game of chance. …

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