Missouri sports betting legislation started a familiar journey Tuesday.
Rep. Dan Houx’s Missouri sports betting bill, HB 2331, began with a hearing in the Special Committee on Public Policy Tuesday. Houx’s proposal passed out of the House the past two years before running into opposition from Sen. Denny Hoskins, who has killed the legislation.
“We’ve heard it so many times I feel like it’s Groundhog Day,” Houx said, kicking off the committee meeting.
Before the start of the session, industry sources were cold on sports betting chances because of Hoskins. Circumstances might have changed Tuesday, as Senate President Caleb Rowden took a stand against Hoskins and a small group of allies, which Rowden called the “Chaos Caucus.”
Familiar Missouri sports betting proposal
Houx sponsors the proposal backed by the state’s professional sports teams, casinos and national sportsbook operators. Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
Sports teams and casinos could open in-person sportsbooks under the bill. It also creates up to 39 skins for the businesses to partner with online sportsbooks.
The state will tax sports betting revenue at 10%. In 2022, the tax rate dropped to 8% during the legislative process.
Proponents line up in Missouri again
St. Louis Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III was the first speaker in support of the sports betting legislation. DeWitt and other sports team executives have been frequent supporters in hearings over the past two years.
“We’ve really appreciated the support in the House for this important initiative,” DeWitt said, who added consumers are still pushed to the unregulated and untaxed illegal market.
Other organizations in attendance to support the bill included:
- Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL
- Kansas City Royals of MLB
- Missouri Chamber of Commerce
- Missouri Gaming Association
- NFL Players Association, with letters from other professional athlete associations
- Sports Betting Alliance
- St. Louis City FC of MLS
- St. Louis Blues of the NHL
Could Missouri ballot proposal disappear?
DeWitt leads the coalition of sports teams, which also began circulating a petition this month for a sports betting ballot proposal. DeWitt told LSR last year that the initiative is an alternate route should the legislative push fail again this year.
“We would gladly suspend that effort if we can get legislative approval through this bill,” DeWitt said.
The petition needs at least 170,000 signatures by May 5. However, Hoskins has indicated nothing will change this session to allow the bill to pass.
The Missouri holdup
Hoskins also introduced sports betting legislation, SB 824, this session. His bill, however, includes language legalizing the slot machine-like video lottery terminals found in gas stations and convenience stores.
While Hoskins argues VLTs have greater tax-generating potential, often citing veterans’ needs, they do not have much support from lawmakers. VLT companies have donated to Hoskins’s campaigns in the past.
“It’s really him. There are enough people who want to get sports betting done. It’s getting sort of ridiculous,” an industry source told LSR last summer. “I don’t think others have the passion for what he says is fairness for VLTs. He’s really the sticking point.”
Could Senate outlook change?
Hoskins and a small group of Republicans have played their obstructionist role on multiple issues, not just sports betting. Rowden, also a Republican, said their interference early this session was the last straw.
Rowden pulled the group of lawmakers off of their committee assignments.
“The beginning of the 2024 legislative session in the Senate has been nothing short of an embarrassment,” Rowden posted on Twitter. “A chamber designed to be occupied with civil, principled statesmen and women has been overtaken by a small group of swamp creatures who, all too often, remind me more of my children than my colleagues.”
“The True Republican majority stands ready to get to work to move our shared priorities — education reform, tort reform, IP reform, tax cuts, public safety, and so much more. All of these policies are attainable. But it will only come if the Chaos Caucus makes an intentional decision to start working with their colleagues instead of taking their marching orders from their puppet masters in Virginia.”
Despite the legislative shakeup, industry sources are doubtful of any substantial change to the Senate’s functionality.