It has been less than a week since the Missouri legislature convened for its 2023 session in Jefferson City, and there’s reason to believe this could be the year sports betting makes it across the finish line.
Much of that optimism comes from longtime legislators such as Sen. Denny Hoskins, who represents District 21 in the legislature’s upper chamber.
The Warrensburg Republican’s first bill of the 2023 session is Senate Bill 1, which would legalize Video Lottery Terminals and Missouri sports betting.
SB-1, or the Honoring Missouri Veterans and Supporting Missouri Education Act, takes a lot of its language from last year’s HB-2502, which would have legalized sports betting in the state, while tacking on the VLT aspect that ultimately tanked last year’s legislation.
In an interview with BetMissouri.com this week, Hoskins said SB-1 has the potential to generate more than $250 million a year in revenue for the state.
Much of that money would go toward funding the state’s veterans homes and cemeteries, supplementing the $50 million in funding earmarked for the facilities in the 2022 fiscal year, while the remaining funds would go toward education in the state.
“So, we've seen what other states have done in the terms of sportsbook as well as Video Lottery Terminals and we are trying to come up with a comprehensive bill to do the same in Missouri,” Hoskins told BetMissouri.com. “... And what we’re trying to do is raise enough money to help them make up that difference of $50 million.”
Why 2023 Could Be the Year For Sports Betting in Missouri
Hoskins’ bill comes less than a year after the legislature’s upper chamber failed to pass House-led legislation that would have legalized wagering.
The longtime Western Missouri legislator was at the center of HB-2502’s failure in the Senate, as he filibustered the legislation over its failure to include VLTs.
Hoskins’ filibuster put the final nail in sports betting’s coffin in Missouri a year ago, despite HB-2502 clearing the state House by a 115-33 margin.
The second-term Senator pointed at the state’s casinos as the main culprit for killing last year’s sports betting legislation. This year, Hoskins is looking to get all parties, from professional sports teams to casino operators and cities, on the same page.
“(SB-1) has many of the same things that were in the HB-2502 last year,” Hoskins said.“ Unfortunately, we did have a sports betting-only bill that had passed out of the House last year. And I had worked with a Senate handler of that bill in order to come up with a good compromise.
“... But unfortunately, the casinos said that they would not agree to it. And so unfortunately (HB-2502) died the last couple of weeks of session. So, there's many of the same things that were in the original House bill that was last year. But we decided, ‘hey, if we're going to try and make this happen and get the least amount of resistance possible, then we'll go ahead and take those ideas and concerns that the professional sports teams as well as casinos have and put them in this bill.'"
As for the future of wagering in Missouri, Hoskins sees sports betting as a key component of the state’s future, though its ability to generate tax revenue is a mere fraction of what he expects VLTs to bring in.
“I know several people that say that they go to Kansas and bet and so certainly we'd like for them to keep that revenue in the state of Missouri,” Hoskins said. “... But we also realized that the revenue is just not there, like many people expected.
“And in fact, I know several of my Kansas colleagues that have told me — ‘hey, we're going to have to revisit the Kansas sports betting bill because we didn't get it right the first time, and we need to tweak the tax rate and the amount of money that should go to compulsive and problem gambling as well as some of the license fees,’ because they believe those were way too low.”
Bill Allows Missouri to Keep Up With Joneses
Hoskins sees SB-1, which would go into effect Aug. 28 if passed, as a way to ensure Missourians have the opportunity to partake in the same activities as their neighbors to the east and west, while also providing needed funding for the state’s veterans and children.
Kansas passed sports betting last year and launched Sept. 1. In four months of sports betting, Kansas has generated $718.78 million in handle and a little more than $2 million in state taxes.
Hoskins believes tacking together sports betting and VLTs allows the state to generate 25 times the revenue wagering alone would generate.
When asked what he’d tell Missouri residents about SB-1 and its importance, Hoskins said the legislation would allow the Show Me State to expand its gaming options by late August, which would give it an opportunity to cash in on NFL wagering and maximize its VLT revenues.
“SB-1 is very important. And obviously it's the first bill that I filed. It will be the first bill that’s referred to one of the Senate committees this week,” Hoskins said. “And so, it is very important that we make sure that we honor our commitment to our veterans and fully fund our veterans homes and cemeteries. And SB- 1 will do that.”