The legislator blamed for holding up Missouri sports betting believes there are two ways to pass the legislation this session.
Sen. Denny Hoskins told LSR Tuesday that the attempt to amend one of his bills in the House this week is likely unconstitutional. Hoskins, who filibustered MO sports betting bills the past two years, said there are two options to pass the issue before the legislature adjourns Friday.
“Probably SB 30 as amended with a few more changes or a compromise bill with VLTs to bring $250 [million] for Missouri veterans homes and education,” Hoskins said, coming after multiple industry sources told LSR this week that Missouri sports betting hopes are dead this year.
House sports betting play irks Hoskins
Hoskins pledged to be an obstructionist against sports betting bills this year after his bill with the issue, as well as video lottery terminals, failed to advance out of committee. He filibustered a bill, SB 30, for eight hours in April.
Rep. Dan Houx made a play to insert sports betting into an unrelated Hoskins bill Tuesday. That move came after Houx has watched his HB 556 sit motionless in the Senate since passing the House, 118-35, in March.
“[St. Louis Cardinals President] Bill DeWitt III and the bill sponsor both have publicly said they believe sportsbook should pass on its own and don’t believe other gaming legislation fits on a sportsbook-only bill,” Hoskins said. “I’m sure they certainly would also agree with me that sportsbook doesn’t fit in bills relating to brining more jobs and economic development to rural Missouri, which is the underlying bill, SB 92.
“The House appears to have almost loved my bill to death. The addition of several amendments unrelated to creating jobs in rural Missouri … would be overthrown by our judicial system.”
Missouri sports betting paths forward
For the second straight year, Houx authored legislation supported by a coalition of professional sports teams, MO casino operators and national sportsbooks. Houx’s bill advanced through the House both years. The bill Hoskins filibustered in April, SB 30, was a companion to Houx’s coalition-backed proposal.
After pushing a drastically different proposal last year, Hoskins entered this year hoping to push a bill, SB 1, combining the coalition’s preferred sports betting framework and regulation for video lottery terminals (VLT.) The coalition, particularly casinos, are not fans of the slot machine-like devices found in gas stations and convenience stores.
Hoskins believes the only way forward for the issue this year is SB 30, as amended throughout the eight-hour filibuster last month, or a bill combining sports betting and VLT. The filibuster added multiple amendments, including more funding for veterans and increased casino admission fees.
Hoskins doubts public vote succeeds
As MO sports betting increasingly looks unlikely to make it out of the legislature by Friday, professional teams are turning their focus toward a ballot initiative. If successful, it would put the issue on the 2024 ballot.
While Hoskins did not outright say a public vote would fail, he directed LSR to a recent Saint Louis University poll suggesting public appetite for sports betting is not fully there.
“The most recent poll I saw of likely 2024 voters had 35% favored making sportsbook legal and 41% were against legalizing it,” Hoskins said.