Missouri Sports Betting Feud Heats Up As Clock Ticks Down

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Missouri sports betting

Missouri sports betting has all but been declared dead, but proponents hope a last-ditch amendment could plow through a roadblock before the session adjourns Friday.

On Tuesday, the Missouri House added MO sports betting language to an unrelated bill from the Senator holding up the issue in the Senate. The main bill, Sen. Denny HoskinsSB 92, passed the House, 83-65, and now returns to the Senate

Hoskins promised to play obstructionist to sports betting since his own bill with the issue, which includes legalizing video lottery terminals (VLT), did not advance out of committee. While the proponents hold onto a glimmer of hope for the amended bill, the target of the gambit did not seem amused Tuesday.

“The bill that the House passed is definitely not a slam dunk,” Hoskins told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch following the House vote Tuesday. “The House put a lot of love into the bill and they might have loved it to death.”

Main House sponsor leads charge

Rep. Dan Houx authored the main MO sports betting proposal the past two years. Both bills advanced beyond the House and stalled in the Senate because of Hoskins’s filibustering.

Houx’s bill, HB 556, has sat stagnant since passing the House, 118-35, in March. With the impasse persisting, Houx added the sports betting language to Hoskins’s bill Tuesday in an attempt to coax Hoskins and the Senate into a vote on the issue because it is attached to a bill the chamber already approved.

“This is just an opportunity to place this on another bill,” Houx said Tuesday. “I know it’s not going to make everybody happy.”

Will this move sports betting needle in Missouri?

Not all lawmakers were excited about the move on the House floor, including some who felt sports betting is too far from the actual content of the bill. They also fear it is just a way to badger a legislator holding up an otherwise popular bipartisan bill.

One industry source told LSR that the move “doesn’t really help anything, maybe makes it worse.” Another source said it does not feel like a real effort, and they don’t see a “real path for sports betting this session.”

Sports betting has not moved in the Senate in more than a month. On April 5, Hoskins filibustered a Senate companion to Houx’s bill for more than eight hours before the legislation was pulled from the floor.

The play for Missouri sports betting

With time running short, an industry source told LSR this week that this move from Houx might come. Houx proposed the amendment to Hoskins’s SB 92, proposing tax incentives to hire interns and apprentices in Missouri.

The amendment inserts the language from Houx’s main bill, which includes in-person sportsbooks at Missouri casinos, as well as online sportsbooks for the state’s casino companies and professional sports teams.

Following the vote on the amendment, Houx said he hoped constituents were paying attention that the House cares about the issue. Throughout most of the session, Houx said he hoped to come to an agreement with Hoskins to legalize sports betting.

Missouri pro teams ready to move on

Professional teams in Missouri are among the chief advocates for legalizing sports betting. The teams, MO casino companies, and national sportsbooks led a coalition supporting Houx’s proposal for the past two years. 

Now, the St. Louis Cardinals are looking at leading a ballot initiative to put sports betting on the 2024 ballot. The Kansas City Royals are also open to the idea.

“We’re going to take a serious look at that,” Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III told the Post-Dispatch last week. “I think there are a few things we may push on here at the end. We’re just so frustrated. It’s working against our fans and our citizens who overwhelmingly support it.”