The Missouri legislature may be in recess due to spring break, but that doesn’t mean legislators are taking it easy, especially when it comes to sports betting in the Show Me State.
For Rep. Dan Houx (R-Warrensburg) that work includes canvassing the Republican caucus in the House to ensure that HB-556 passes.
The bill, which Houx is sponsoring, paves the way for the state’s professional sports teams and casinos to offer mobile and retail sports betting.
The current Missouri sports betting bill comes a year after HB-2502 advanced through the House by a 115-33 margin, only to die on the Senate floor over a filibuster concerning the lack of video lottery terminals in the legislation.
Houx told BetMissouri.com in a phone interview he believes this year’s efforts could prove fruitful, thanks in large part to the grassroots pressure constituents have put on lawmakers over not being able to bet on local teams.
"I have good feelings of getting it out of the House. My job is to get it out of the House and just get it over to the Senate and start working with senators over there,” Houx said. “Everybody wants [sports betting], as far as what we’re hearing in the state, from door knocking this past year on both sides of the aisle.
“Everybody heard about, ‘Hey, we want sports gambling passed.’ So, it's definitely out there. People do want it. We know that. And so, I'm going do my damnedest to get it done."
What’s Left For Missouri Legislators To Do
Lawmakers like Houx return to the floor Monday, with bills like HB-556 going through prefecture, then hitting a full House vote once that’s wrapped up.
As of Wednesday, no additional hearings have been scheduled on the bill, though Houx outlined how things could go from here, as lawmakers look to wrap up work on the legislation before May 12.
"We kind of ran out of time last week. We had a few other priorities in front of it, caucus wise, but we have been promised by leadership that [HB-556 is] first up on the docket on Monday, when we get back into session,” Houx said. “So, we'll have it on the House floor and get it perfected on Monday and hopefully third read it Wednesday or Thursday of next week and get sent over to the Senate."
Should the House vote to pass Houx’s bill, it would then head to the Senate, where last year’s legislation fell short.
When asked what has changed that gives Houx faith that HB-556 will avoid HB-2502’s fate, the longtime legislator said that he is ready to work with longstanding opponents, like Sen. Denny Hoskins, on doing what’s needed to get wagering on the books in 2023.
In late February, the Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee passed SB-30, a sports wagering-only bill while voting down SB-1, Hoskins' bill that combined sports betting and VLTs.
“I'm going to work with Sen. Hoskins on the other side once I get it over there. Senator Hoskins has been the one who's best known for gambling in the state of Missouri,” Houx said. “He's carried both sports book and VLTs. So, I'm going to work diligently with him to hopefully get a clean sports betting bill.”
Houx said Hoskins’ longstanding commitment to VLTs is a non-starter right now, given opposition from casinos and other entities, but there’s room for compromise.
The demand for Missouri sports betting, on the other hand, has never been higher, he said, which is why the order of attack starts with wagering and goes on from there.
“There's not much appetite for [VLTs] right now,” Houx said. “… But there's a huge appetite to get sports gambling done on both sides of the aisle.”