Despite a major hurdle ahead for Missouri sports betting legislation, there is optimism for a compromise this year.
The Missouri House gave a first reading to Rep. Dan Houx’s MO sports betting bill, HB 556, Wednesday, but it is unlikely to move through any committees until later this month. The bill is essentially the same legislation Houx pushed through the chamber last year before it stalled in the Senate.
The same issue that held up Houx’s bill remains in the Senate, where Sen. Denny Hoskins hopes to include video lottery terminals (VLT) in sports betting legislation. For now, the casino and sports team coalition behind Houx’s bill remains opposed to VLTs, but Houx told LSR this week he is optimistic legislators will pass some form of sports betting will this year.
Houx drops similar MO sports betting bill
Houx told LSR in September 2022 he planned to roll out a similar sports betting bill, likely his only piece of legislation introduced in 2023. Rep. Phil Christofanelli also introduced a similar version of the bill, HB 581.
A coalition of Missouri sports teams, casinos and sportsbooks supports Houx’s bill. It creates 39 mobile skins and allows for retail sportsbooks at the 13 riverboat casinos.
Despite an amendment dropping the tax to 8% last year, Houx reinstated the 10% tax this session. He also inserted language to prohibit prop bets on college athletes.
Senate sports betting bill likely takes lead in Missouri
Houx said he does not expect House committees to start hearing bills until the third week of January. With that in mind, he sees Hoskins’ bill getting a head start and reaching the floor first.
The Senate acts on bills in order and Hoskins sports betting bill is SB 1. In the past, Hoskins hoped to keep sports betting taxes in line with the 21% levied on other casino gaming, but this bill carries a 10% tax similar to the House bill.
Like last year, Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer filed a similar bill to Houx, SB 30, but it plays a second fiddle in the Senate to Hoskins’ bill.
“We have a couple of House priorities, two or three, but I’m not concerned about getting it out of the House,” Houx said. “I think a lot of it relies on SB 1. I expect that to be on the floor by the end of January or first week of February. That will be the telltale sign of the VLT issue.”
VLTs remain at issue in Missouri
While Houx is optimistic sports betting will be legalized in Missouri this year, he is not sure whether or not it will include VLTs. The push for VLTs last year effectively killed the legalization effort.
Hoskins told LSR last month that he hopes to find a deal with the coalition that supports Houx’s effort. However, Houx said there is still strong opposition.
“Unfortunately here in Missouri, the casinos are extremely adamant against VLTs,” Houx said. “They’re extremely against them here, and they haven’t seemed to waver.”
2022 primed the pump in Missouri
The 2022 legislative session in Missouri appeared to be a race with Kansas legislators to see who would legalize sports betting first. The Show-Me State stayed on the sideline as Kansas sportsbooks launched in September.
While the Missouri House effort gained steam last spring, the emergence of the VLT issue proved a problem that will not fade away easily. Still, the Kansas legalization could help push Missouri lawmakers to cross the finish line this year.
Multiple Missouri publications, including the Kansas City Star, placed sports betting among the key legislative issues this session. House Majority Leader Jonathan Patterson told the Missouri Independent this week sports betting is high on his priority list because people want it.
“It is something that a lot of people want to have,” Patterson told the publication. “It seems a little silly for people in Kansas City to have to go over to the other side and place their bets there.”