The opening Senate floor hearing for the Missouri sports betting bill in the chamber was derailed by hours of debate Wednesday, muddying the future for wagering in the 2023 session.
SB-30, which was sponsored by Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, is the companion bill in the Senate to HB-556, which cleared the House by a 113-35-2 margin March 22.
During Tuesday’s bills for perfection session, which continued into the evening, Sen. Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg) voiced his opposition to the standalone sports betting bill’s lack of video lottery terminals, setting the stage for an hours-long filibuster that seems to have tanked the legislation’s chances.
The other obstacle that emerged for Luetkemeyer’s bill was the onslaught of amendments, ranging in scope from raising the wagering tax rate from 12% to 15% to tacking on a $4.16 admission fee to Missouri casinos on all bets placed in the state.
In total, five of the 10 amendments that were proposed Wednesday were approved by the chamber. Measures to put the future of sports betting on the 2024 ballot and adding online licenses for the state’s XFL and Major League Rugby teams were among the ones to fail.
When asked by Hoskins why SB-30 did not include VLT language, Luetkemeyer said it was his belief there were enough Senate Democrats and Republicans to get such a bill across the line in 2023, with the 18 votes in place to clear the 35-seat chamber.
"My sense is that if there was a standalone sports wagering bill that came to a vote in the Senate, that it would pass; and I think it would pass,"Luetkemeyer said.
Industry insiders, such as Brendan Bussmann, who serves as managing partner of B Global Advisors, didn’t mince words when breaking down Wednesday’s Senate session.
“Today’s exercise of filibustering, of adding so many ornaments to the Christmas Tree to make a bill as toxic as possible was likely achieved,” Bussmann said. “While well within the rules, there is a niche group of Senators that are more concerned about their own interests as opposed to representing their constituents and good policy.”
What Senators Had To Say Wednesday
A theme that emerged early and often from several of the leaders of Wednesday’s Missouri Senate hearing was a general sense of disappointment over the state’s continued inability to pass sports betting legislation.
President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden was one such voice, telling members of the Senate he was tired of having VLTs and “gray market games” derail sports betting legislation.
"... I think you're going to see the adverse of that, which would be some Republicans and some Democrats saying, ‘hey, we don't want VLTs, but we want sports betting,’” the Senator said. “So, I don't know that this is a partisan issue. I just think it's a matter of trying to get to an end result so that people in Missouri can enjoy sports betting if they choose. And we don't have to send our money to that wretched state to the west."
Kansas approved sports betting during the 2022 legislative session and launched mobile and retail sportsbooks Sept. 1. This resulted in top operators, like BetMGM Missouri to go live in the state.
Some Missouri legislators desire to match their neighbors ran into the objections of members of both parties, however, with a filibuster that included discussions of the B-2 stealth bomber, the city of Tucson and a reading of Ronald Reagan’s biography, “The Role Of A Lifetime.”
After Tuesday’s hearing, the next steps for HB-556 are uncertain. The Missouri legislature adjourns May 30.