It appears the fate of Missouri sports betting is very much in doubt after a long Senate filibuster Wednesday night.
HB 2502, which cleared the state’s House by a 115-33 margin on March 24, was thrown off when Republican Sen. Danny Hoskins and other members of the upper chamber protested the bill’s failure to add video lottery terminals into the legislation.
Hoskins and fellow Republican Senator Mike Bernskoetter sparred over the video lottery terminals, with the latter wanting the 5,000 machines removed from the bill, while the former remained adamant they remain.
Bernskoetter decried the addition of video lottery terminals during the hearing, saying they would only further increase the number of gambling terminals in the state’s rest stops and gas stations.
The bill had passed the Senate Appropriations Committee by an 8-1 margin April 19.
Keeping Up with the Joneses in Missouri
Early in the hearing, Sen. Andrew Koenig said HB 2502 is the best way to ensure Missouri stays on the level with its neighbors, such as Nebraska, Illinois, and Arkansas, which have already passed sports betting legislation in some form.
He added the sports betting legislation is vital in the Show Me State, as it prevents the potential revenue from wagering escaping the state’s boundaries, supporting the state’s educational system in the process.
Representatives of the Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Blues had stumped for the bill in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee in early April.
“I see that this is the best chance for Missouri to keep pace with our surrounding states,” Koenig said during Wednesday’s meeting. “Whether you like it or not, sports betting is happening in Missouri and will continue to happen, whether this bill passes or not.”
Koenig continued to discuss the addition of video lottery terminals in VFW halls and truck stops, saying it isn’t perfect, but is needed in the order of compromise.
“Now, I'm admittedly not as comfortable with this portion of the bill. But the Senate is a place of compromise and that's as close as we can get,” Koenig said. “I appreciate the senators helping me in working this out.”
From there on, the debate was centered around the 5,000 video lottery machines, with Hoskins and several other senators steering the debate toward that aspect of the bill, stalling any chance of progressing the legislation forward during the late-night session.
What We Can Glean from Wednesday’s Hearing
It’s unclear when exactly the Missouri Senate will take up HB 2502 again, as the item isn’t listed on the body’s schedule for Thursday or Friday, though the upper chamber has until May 30 to pass the bill.
Brendan Bussmann, who has served as a partner and director of government affairs for gaming and hospitality consulting firm Global Market Affairs since 2015, said the state’s sports betting bill still has a shot at passage, despite Wednesday’s filibuster.
"As Missouri has debated sports betting longer than almost any other state, it is unfortunate that yesterday’s actions stunted the ability to allow legal wagering in the Show Me State but there remain several options on the table to still get this done,” Bussmann said in an email to BetMissouri.com.
“The legislative process is always messy. Sports betting should have proceeded forward yesterday in Missouri but is currently on the cutting room floor in the name of VGTs.”
Bussmann said the video gaming terminals issue, while pertinent, should be a separate matter from the passage of sports betting in the state, allowing the measure to pass as is.
Until that happens, sports betting in Missouri will continue to be in flux, as residents of the Show Me State continue to watch their neighbors in Kansas proceed toward full legalization.
“It’s time to deal with both of these issues but they need to be handled separately as opposed to the hijacking of bill that occurred yesterday,” Bussmann said.