A gridlocked Senate once again ensured Missouri sports betting legislation did not pass this year.
Despite passing the House handily again this session, MO sports betting legislation ran into an inhospitable Senate. The Missouri legislature adjourned Friday without sending sports betting legislation to Gov. Mike Parsons.
During filibusters on Thursday and Friday, lawmakers at times blamed sports betting for the stall. Despite those claims, industry sources told LSR “good-faith negotiations” had already ended.
The sports betting impasse is connected to Sen. Denny Hoskins, who wants sports betting tied to regulatory language for video lottery terminals. Hoskins has also participated in filibusters throughout the session, including an eight-hour stand on April 5 to block a sports betting bill.
No deal for Missouri sports betting
While there were multiple proposals on the table heading into the session, Missourians are again left without legal sports betting.
For a significant piece of the last two days of the session, Sen. Bill Eigel filibustered, lamenting how little the legislature accomplished this year concerning conservative priorities.
Eigel said special-interest lobbyists, including for sports betting, held up multiple significant issues this session. During his filibuster, he read from Ronald Reagan’s biography and the Missouri GOP platform.
No more attempts in Missouri
Hoskins said passing a heavily amended SB 30 – the target of his eight-hour filibuster – or a compromise bill including VLTs were the only ways sports betting passed this year. Legislative leadership brought neither option to the Senate floor this week.
Eigel derailed action late Thursday and Friday in hopes the Senate would pass his personal property tax bill. He said the legislation was held up, at least in part, because of a disagreement on sports betting.
“There is no deal on sports betting,” Eigel said Thursday. “It’s not going to happen no matter what we do on personal property tax in the next 24 hours.”
Sports betting, however, was not the only victim of the Senate impasse. Along with other high-profile issues, a House bill to give child sex abuse victims longer to sue their abuser that passed the lower chamber 150-0 did not get a vote in the Senate.
Messy Missouri Senate
Multiple Republican lawmakers spent time throughout the week blocking and slowing the legislative process. No bills advanced through the Senate Friday.
As Eigel filibustered Friday, Senate Majority Leader Cindy O’Laughlin called the floor delays “political theater.”
“Either we are going to have a Senate that is respected and stands on tradition, or we’re going to have something like mud wrestling, which is about what we’ve had for the last couple of years,” O’Laughlin said.
Lengthy sports betting saga in Missouri
The Hoskins obstruction began last year when he prevented Rep. Dan Houx’s proposal from reaching the finish line. A coalition of the state’s professional teams, casinos, and national sportsbook operators back Houx’s legislation, which cleared the House earlier this session than last year.
Hoskins’s efforts against the issue began when his sports betting and VLT legislation failed to advance out of committee. He then pledged to obstruct any sports betting proposals until he got his way.
With his proposal sitting motionless for more than a month, Houx inserted sports betting language into an unrelated Hoskins bill this week before sending it back to the Senate. Hoskins believes the move was likely unconstitutional.
What happens now in Missouri?
Stakeholders are beginning to look for an alternative route to sports betting legalization. The St. Louis Cardinals, a piece of the coalition behind sports betting legislation, are looking to lead a ballot initiative.
If successful, Missouri voters could decide the fate of sports betting at the ballot box in 2024.
Aside from a potential voter referendum, the legislative struggles of the past two years could also clear up and provide a cleaner path to legalization. Every state surrounding Missouri, except Oklahoma, has legalized sports betting.