The Missouri Senate held an eight-hour marathon session Wednesday discussing sports betting that featured everything, from video lottery terminals to a Ronald Reagan biography, except for a vote on sports betting legislation.
The Senate took up Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer’s MO sports betting bill, SB 30, for the procedural perfection step. It is a companion bill to HB 556, which recently crossed over from the House. SB 30 was met by a familiar foe in Sen. Denny Hoskins, who led a multi-hour filibuster that included more than a dozen proposed amendments and a reading of the Reagan biography “The Role of a Lifetime.”
Before the filibuster began, Luetkemeyer said he believed the Senate would pass the sports betting bill if taken up for a vote. In the end, the legislation was gutted and transformed, and Luetkemeyer pulled it off the floor and placed it back onto the Senate’s informal calendar without a vote.
The Missouri legislature adjourns May 5.
Hoskins last stand on MO sports betting?
Hoskins also introduced sports betting legislation this year. His bill, however, failed to advance out of committee, partially because of the inclusion of video lottery terminals (VLT.) Once his bill stalled, he promised to play obstructionist to other sports betting legislation.
Hoskins’s support for VLT regulation was a significant reason a House bill died in the Senate last year. Much of Wednesday’s filibuster focused on VLT inclusion and funding for veterans’ issues in Missouri.
Early in the Wednesday session, Senate President Caleb Rowden said there had been enough talk about VLTs and that the issue should be put up for a vote. By the end of the evening, just before the Senate adjourned for the night, an amendment from Hoskins to put VLTs into the bill failed, 20-11.
Missouri VLTs remain an issue
VLTs are unregulated slot machine-like devices found in gas stations and convenience stores in Missouri. Throughout hearings over the past two years, Missouri lawmakers have largely desired to keep sports betting and VLT legislation separate.
Casino companies in the state, who are part of the coalition behind the sports betting bills, oppose legalizing VLTs. Casino support is crucial to the coalition’s legalization effort.
Sen. Karla May, who previously sponsored VLT-only legislation, joined Hoskins in peppering Luetkemeyer with questions Wednesday. She also joined Hoskins in filibustering sports betting last year.
Can MO sports betting pass Senate?
Industry sources were optimistic when the House sports betting bills crossed over to the Senate last month. The optimism came mainly from the time proponents would have to work the issue through the Senate.
Sources were concerned by the direction of Wednesday’s discussion and how it tore apart a carefully crafted proposal. There is hope from sports betting proponents that the clear-cut defeat of Hoskins’s VLT proposal Wednesday makes him back off his staunch support of the issue.
There is also a different path forward for the industry stakeholder proposal. HB556 remains clean as the House passed the bill last month, 118-35.
What the sports betting bills include
Before Wednesday, Luetkemeyer’s bill mirrored Rep. Dan Houx‘s HB556. The proposal is backed by a coalition of Missouri sports teams, casino companies and national sportsbook operators.
The 13 casinos in the state could open in-person sportsbooks. The casino operators and professional sports teams can partner with up to 39 online sportsbook operators.
The House bill in the Senate carries a 10% tax on sports betting revenue. SB 30 did as well, until an amendment Wednesday raised it to 15%. Houx said he was open to “finding a happy medium” when discussing his bill in the House.