In 2022, after attempts to legalize sports betting in Missouri failed for the second straight year, on March 22, 2023, a bill sponsored by state Rep. Dan Houx – that would allow individuals who live in the “Show Me State” to place bets on major sporting events – saw a landslide victory in the Republican-led House, passing 118-35.
When the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) unconstitutional in May 2018, it left the decision up to each state whether to legalize sports betting within its borders. Since that time, with the exception of Nevada where sports betting has been legal for decades, it is now legal in 33 states (Maine and Nebraska are close) and Washington, D.C., including 24 jurisdictions that allow online betting. And, as commonplace as sports betting is becoming, so are smart betting tips which can help maneuver competing sites.
If successful in the Senate, there will be a up to 39 online skins and 13 in-person sportsbooks at Missouri riverboat casinos. And would tax sports betting revenue, which is estimated to bring the state over $20 million annually, at 10 percent, with the better part of the tax proceeds going to fund K-through-12 education, while the Missouri Gaming Commission would oversee sports betting. The government agency currently regulates riverboat casinos, charitable bingo, and fantasy sports contests in the Midwestern state.
In addition to casino operators, major sports teams in the region, most notably the Super Bowl LVII winning Kansas City Chiefs, are backing Houx’s bill. There is a sense of urgency for the measure to make it to the governor’s desk this trip, and for good reason. Across Missouri, attempts were reportedly made to bet on the Super Bowl at least 250,000 times on the weekend of Feb. 12th when the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles. That is nothing compared to the 8.7 million attempts made from 221,000 Missouri accounts to access legal sports books operating in other states during the 2022 NFL season, according to data from GeoComply.
Catching Up With Region
Feelings, however, are mixed when it comes to Missourians, with 41 percent of the opinion that betting on college and professional should not be legal while 35 percent say it should be legal and the remaining 24 percent unsure, according to a poll released in early March by Saint Louis University and British pollster YouGov.
All signs point to Missouri being a substantial sports betting market, joining Kansas, Arkansas, Illinois, and Iowa, all of which enjoy some form of legal sports betting, and this latest step towards ratification has proponents once again looking towards the end goal. However, the measure must still make it through the Senate where a bill similar to HB 556 was squashed last year after moving swiftly through the House, passing on a 115 to 33 vote in April.
Hoskins and VLT Wrench
Having made it to the Senate, adjustments to HB 2502 started to be made, causing more debate, including Sen. Denny Hoskins’ (R-Warrensburg) competing proposal which increased the tax rate from the proposed 10 percent to 21 percent for sports wagering, matching the rate the state’s 13 casinos pay. Moreover, the measure was filibustered by Hoskins on the Senate floor in an attempt to include language for video lottery terminals (VLT). The Warrensburg senator also happens to be a legal sports betting proponent.
Whether or not the controversial lottery machines, which, can be found at gas stations and convenience stores throughout the state, should also be addressed in sports betting legislation will continue to be a major hurdle, as Hoskins will likely bring the same fight to the Senate floor this year. Many lawmakers are of the opinion that these two issues should not be tied together. According to one source, in February, Hoskins, who appears to have made it his mission to see VLTs legalized in Missouri, said, “I’ll be an obstructionist until I get my way.”
Even if a bill does manage to make it all the way to Republican Governor Mike Parson’s desk in 2023, it could still take six months to over a year before sports betting launches in the state. Once the legalization process has been sorted, then comes the regulatory and licensing process. And while that requirement has been satisfied in good time in some states, others such as Maryland, where sports betting was legalized during the 2020 election but did not launch fully until Nov. 23, 2022, take longer.
None of that matter, however, because until sports betting is legalized, talk of a time-frame is pointless. If all the stars align and a bill is passed soon, Missourians who would like to be able to stay in their own state to place wagers could possibly do so by the end of the year.
Seven of the eight states that border Missouri have legalized sports betting, including Kentucky where on the last day of the 2023 legislative session the senate voted to pass House Bill 551. Meanwhile, North Carolina and Missouri are expected to follow suit in the coming weeks.