Legalizing any new industry comes with plenty of conflicting issues that need to be decided, and sports betting in Missouri is no different.
It’s rarer, though, that one side lobbies for something that would likely hurt them in the long run.
A. John Baker, regional VP of government relations for Caesars, did just that at a hearing for two MO sports betting bills Tuesday.
Iowa as a model?
Baker asked legislators to include what he called the “Iowa model,” which means in-person registration for the first 18 months of the market:
“It’s an 18-month period where the casinos that have invested and have jobs in the community, hundreds of millions of dollars in properties they’ve developed in these communities, have the opportunity to sign customers up in-person for a period before you create the online registration process where you never have to go in anywhere, you just download the app.”
SB 217 from Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer was also heard during the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing.
Why in-person registration in Missouri sports betting bill?
This is an unusual ask for a multi-state casino operator to request in-person registration. That’s because Missouri presents a unique situation for Caesars.
The casino operator also has three casinos in Missouri after merging with Eldorado:
- Isle of Capri, Boonville
- Harrah’s Kansas City
- Lumiere Place, St. Louis
Missouri casinos are actually riverboats and are only legal on either the Missouri or Mississippi rivers. That means most casinos are either on the western or eastern border of the state. Caesars has a casino on both borders, as well as the Isle of Capri casino near the center of Missouri.
In-person registration could also divert traffic from the DraftKings at Casino Queen, which sits just a couple of miles away from Busch Stadium in East St. Louis, Illinois. Operators such as DraftKings and FanDuel have chosen to operate untethered to a casino in states where that is allowed.
In-person hurts markets
While it might be better for Caesars to have in-person registration, history shows that model limits both bettors and the overall market.
There are a few examples detailing that:
- Increased operator interest in the Iowa sports betting market when its in-person requirement expired in January.
- More registrations and higher handle in Rhode Island after remote registration was approved last summer.
- Nevada‘s sports betting handle dipped 19% to $4.3 billion last year because of fewer visitors and registration being shut down for many sportsbooks while casinos were closed as well.
Many bills but no in-person
Unfortunately for Caesars, none of the five sports betting proposals call for in-person registration. That probably won’t change either as the Missouri Gaming Association supports Rowden’s proposal as it stands.
Along with Luetkemeyer’s bill, and Rowden and Christofanelli’s proposal, there are three other Missouri sports betting bills out there:
Considering Rowden is the Senate majority leader, that could point to his and Christofanelli’s proposals being the vehicles to get sports betting legalized in Missouri.
Rowden ready to pass legal Missouri sports betting
Rowden is ready to see sports betting legalized in his state, especially since his constituents are already doing it with offshore operators.
“I do think it’s time to legalize sports betting in the state,” Rowden said. “… There’s really not much of a reason not to do it at this point. It’s already happening, might as well legalize what’s already happening and make a little money off it.”
Rowden was grilled on some of his bill details, like its 6.75% tax rate and proposed three skins per casino, by Hoskins. But Rowden made it clear what’s most important to him is a legal market.
“I will probably answer every question or comment about the same: I’m much less interested in the minutiae of the details,” Rowden said. “I’m much more interested in getting something done. So I am open to, within reason, just about any dialog.”