Missouri Sports Betting Bill Powers Toward Senate, Where VLT Issue Unresolved

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Missouri sports betting

A Missouri sports betting bill came to the end of its open road and is heading toward its biggest obstacle. 

Rep. Dan Houx‘s MO sports betting bill, HB 566, passed the House Wednesday. The chamber took the administrative step of “perfecting” the bill Monday night.

The House passed an almost identical bill from Houx last year before it ran into opposition in the Senate. The same opponent, a powerful Senator hoping to include video lottery terminals (VLT), appears ready to put up a similar fight this year, but sports betting proponents will have more time this year to potentially work out a solution.

Hurdles for Missouri sports betting

Sen. Denny Hoskins is a legal sports betting proponent, but he is also a staunch supporter of legalizing video lottery terminals in Missouri. He has attempted to tie the two issues together, and when his bill failed to advance out of committee earlier this session, he promised to block sports betting.

“I’ll be an obstructionist until I get my way,” Hoskins said last month.

Hoskins successfully thwarted the promising sports betting effort last year. During hearings over the past two years, legislators have largely expressed a desire to separate the issues.

On Tuesday, the Senate placed a bill identical to Houx’s on the formal calendar for perfection. While that can appear promising, Hoskins will likely do what he can to stop its movement.

Missouri VLTs a growing issue

The unregulated slot machine-like VLTs are found in gas stations and convenience stores throughout Missouri. VLTs are the subject of two recent legal complaints, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Torch Electronics is involved in two lawsuits, with complaints suggesting it violates consumer protection statutes and a federal law used to prosecute organized crime. Torch is represented in Jefferson City by a lobbying firm, with a former House Speaker as the lead in the Capitol, according to the Post-Dispatch.

The casino companies in Missouri, including Boyd Gaming and Caesars, oppose legalizing VLTs. The companies are key pieces of the coalition pushing sports betting legislation.

How sports betting can pass Senate

Multiple industry sources told LSR Hoskins will remain a significant issue in passing sports betting in Missouri. 

Unlike last year, when the House advanced sports betting in April, proponents will likely have almost two months to maneuver through the Senate before it adjourns mid-May.

Missouri sports betting outlined

A coalition of Missouri sports teams, casinos and national sportsbook operators supports Houx’s bill. The House also gave administrative approval to an identical companion bill from Rep. Phil Christofanelli.

The 13 casinos in the state can offer in-person sportsbooks. HB 556 also allows casino operators and professional sports teams to partner with up to 39 total online sportsbook operators.

Houx’s bill would impose a 10% tax on sports betting revenue. The House voted against proposed amendments to increase the tax on the issue Monday. Still, Houx said he would not oppose “finding a happy medium” to gain Senate approval.

Missourians already betting

Proponents suggest Missourians already bet in neighboring states, including Illinois and Kansas. Last year, it appeared Missouri was on pace to pass sports betting legislation at the same time as Kansas.

During the NFL betting season, GeoComply logged 8.7 million attempts by Missourians to bet in other states. While six of the neighboring eight states have legal sports betting, 46.3% of the attempts were trying to access Kansas sportsbooks.

A legislative fiscal note projects first-year tax revenue of $8.5 million.