The race to launch sports betting between Missouri and Kansas continued Wednesday with a hearing in the Show-Me State.
The Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee held a public hearing on HB 2502 Wednesday but did not take action following the hearing. The legislative session runs until May 13.
Representatives advanced the MO sports betting bill out of the House last month with a 115-33 vote.
Missouri sports betting bill starts Senate path
At the beginning of the legislative session, multiple bills backed by a coalition of Missouri sports teams, casinos and national sportsbook operators were filed in the House and Senate. Rep. Dan Houx’s HB 2502 was the first to make moves, clearing the House March 24.
The bill legalizes retail sports betting at the state’s 13 riverboat casinos. The legislation also creates 39 online skins, including 33 for the casino operators and six for the state’s professional teams.
On the House floor, an amendment dropped the tax rate on Houx’s bill from 10% to 8% to be lower than the Kansas sports betting bill waiting on a final Senate vote.
Missouri senator forms opposition
Sen. Denny Hoskins filed a competing sports betting proposal this session that includes lottery retailers and a 21% tax rate in line with other casino games in the state. Hoskins sits on the Appropriations Committee and asked why the coalition proposal is better than his.
He said the 8% tax rate leaves up to $153 million in tax revenue on the table compared to his proposal.
“Is this bill the best bill we can get for the taxpayers of Missouri?” Hoskins said. “That gives me cause for concern. When we look at surrounding states, 8% would be the second-lowest.”
Is there a ‘golden ticket?’
Hoskins also said allocating online skins to teams is like giving the organizations a “golden ticket” to make money from sportsbook operators looking to enter the state. St. Louis Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III disagreed with that sentiment.
“The number of skins contemplated in this bill exceeds the number of bonafide legitimate operators that would care to access right away,” DeWitt said. “This is really just a way for us as teams to play a role in deciding who our fans should be exposed to marketing-wise.
“We will experience an uptick in sponsorship revenue. This is not like a windfall awarding of a giant asset in terms of skins that immediately have hundreds of millions of dollars in value.”
Missouri, Kansas battle on sports betting
Sen. Barbara Washington took several shots at Kansas during the hearing. Washington also asked Kansas City Chiefs Vice President of Civic Affairs Anne Scharf if the team is committed to staying in Missouri, referencing a recent report the team might look to move to Kansas.
Scharf spoke in support of the bill and said the license is contingent on the team staying in Missouri. She also said the organization is looking at the viability of renovating Arrowhead Stadium and plans to honor the existing lease, which has nine years remaining.
Notably, a recent addition to the bill in Kansas allocates 80% of tax revenue from sports betting to a fund dedicated to attracting teams to the state. That fund could help pay for a new stadium.