Not even discouragement from Gov. Mike Parson’s office Monday morning could keep the state House from beginning debate on a Missouri sports betting bill.
The Missouri House Emerging Issues committee discussed whether it could get HB-4, which would legalize wagering, across the finish line Monday afternoon after a spokesperson from Parson’s office said earlier in the day the current legislative special session should not include sports betting.
A representative for the governor told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Monday the state’s special session was limited to cutting the state’s income tax rate.
“Sports betting is clearly beyond the call and does not relate to Governor Parson’s topics in the call. I do not anticipate sports betting being a part of special session,” Parson’s Director of Communications Kelli Jones told the paper.
Jones’ statement didn’t seem to hamper the enthusiasm of committee members such as bill sponsor Rep. Dan Houx.
During the committee’s meeting, Houx told members the debate around wagering in Missouri needed to be continued, regardless of whether Parson approves or not.
“[Monday’s hearing is definitely about] keeping [sports betting] in the forefront, to show Missourians that the House is at least trying to do everything that we promised we’d do,” Houx said Monday. “I’ve been hearing it all the time. Everybody’s hearing it all the time. It’s just something we need to keep in the forefront.”
Houx added he’s going to continue pursuing wagering options in the Show Me State, especially as data continues to show how popular the activity is in Kansas, where sports betting went live officially on Sept. 8 and more than $47 million was wagered during the state’s opening 11 days of business.
“It’s our job as representatives to get new revenue into the state on a constant basis,” Houx said.
Broad Support for Wagering in Missouri
All nine of the committee members and another nine representatives from various Missouri sports teams and organizations spoke out in favor of HB-4 and sports betting in general Monday.
The unanimous support comes six months after the House passed HB-2502 by a 115-33 margin, before the legislation died in the state’s upper chamber.
Houx told BetMissouri.com in an emailed statement last week that he believed HB-4 rose to the level of being discussed during this special session.
“The current extraordinary session was called by the Governor to have robust discussion to keep as much of Missourians own money in their hands while ensuring we continue ‘managing our state finances by balancing our budget every year,’” Vought said. “I feel strongly that an important part of that discussion must include removing barriers that cause Missourians to spend their hard earned money in other states.
“After watching an exodus of Missourians over the last two weeks contribute to Kansans’ economy through sportsbook, it is clear Missouri has missed an opportunity to be responsible in maintaining a balanced budget while also cutting taxes. As Kansas and other surrounding states capitalize at our cost, I believe adding sportsbook to the discussion rises to the level of extraordinary. This is why, despite being outside of the Governor’s call, that I have filed House Bill 4 and I hope the Governor will give serious consideration to expanding the call.”
What People Are Saying About Missouri Sports Betting
Brendan Bussmann, who serves as managing partner of gaming firm B Global, told BetMissouri.com in an email there is a loophole the legislature could pursue to get sports betting live in the state.
Pursuing such a loophole would likely draw the consternation of Parson but would at least show Missourians the House is ready to answer their calls.
“While the Governor has put forward a very detailed agenda for the special session ahead, there is always the ‘other matters’ clause that allows additional subjects to be brought up once the legislature is in session,” Bussmann said. “This leaves open the opportunity to add sports betting as part of the debate.”
Brandt Iden, a former Michigan legislator who current serves as the head of government affairs for Sportradar, encourages those in Missouri to take a cooperative approach.
“(It’s) great to see that the House is once again stepping up and leading on this issue legislatively,” Iden said. “However, without support from the Executive either in this Special Session or next year, sports betting will remain stalled in Missouri. Trust me, being the guy who was dealt a veto the first time around in Michigan, it’s pretty important that the Governor be included in these conversations.”
For now, those in favor of Missouri sports betting remain hopeful.
“Missouri at this point has debated this longer than any other state and now sits as an island while sports betting dollars go across the border to Iowa, Illinois, Kansas and Arkansas,” Bussmann said.“While challenges remain in the Senate, the House clearly believes the debate should keep going and not wait until January while lawmakers are in session.”