‘That Dog Don’t Hunt’: Why MO Sports Betting Bill Stalled

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MO sports betting

It looked like Missouri would legalize sportsbooks this year until the Senate insisted on other gaming accompanying the MO sports betting bill.

Sen. Denny Hoskins submitted language to legalize video lottery terminals (VLT) in the Senate substitute introduced Wednesday evening. Sen. Mike Bernskoetter filed an amendment to remove the language, which led to an hours-long filibuster by Hoskins before ending the night without a vote.

So while no progress was made on the bill, the message seems clear: both VLTs and MO sportsbooks will be legalized, or neither will.

MO sports betting hinging on VLT acceptance?

Adding legislation that would allow VLTs has typically acted as a poison pill in Missouri and elsewhere. VLTs are essentially slot machines outside of casinos, often located in fraternal and veterans’ organizations and truck stops. The state’s 13 casinos want nothing drawing away from their slot businesses and know sports betting will not offset the decline.

But Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Dan Hegeman, who admitted he did not have much gaming knowledge and never expected to be handling the bill, said this is the best chance:

“I think as we go forward this is our best effort to come up with a compromise that many entities can go along with.”

Hoskins: 153 amendments for missed revenue

Hoskins called for a 21% tax on sports betting revenue instead of the House’s proposed 8%. He asserted multiple times this session that his bill would lead to $153 million more in tax dollars for the state.

That number came back up Wednesday night. The Senate substitute for the House’s legislation taxes sports betting at 10%, not 21%, but makes up the revenue with the proposed VLTs.

Hoskins noted, however, that he had 153 amendments for the sports betting legislation if needed.

Adding VLTs a bipartisan issue?

Sen. Karla May, the minority caucus chairwoman, took part in the filibuster and made it clear where she stands.

“Either you’re voting for moderate expansion of gaming in the state or you’re not. There is no mirror where we’re going to have one without the other. There is no mirror where you’re going to ask me to stand down on what I want while you get what you want.

“Like I said, that dog don’t hunt. Just stop. It’s an intellectual insult.”

What’s next in MO sports betting?

HB 2502 and HB 2556 were placed on the informal calendar before adjournment Wednesday night. That means it is not guaranteed they will come up again Thursday.

Whenever they do, more of the same song and dance can be expected. If the amendment is approved to remove the VLTs, it seems likely the bills could die on the Senate floor.

Even if the VLT language is included, though, there is no guarantee the House will be on board and accept the substitute. The two sides would have just over two weeks to figure out a compromise as the legislative session ends May 13.