During a public hearing in a Missouri House of Representatives committee on Wednesday night, two bills on sports gambling were discussed. What legislators heard was overwhelmingly strong support for those Missouri sports betting bills.
At issue are HB 556, sponsored by Republican Rep. Dan Houx, and HB 581, sponsored by Republican Rep. Phil Christofanelli. The two pieces of legislation would legalize and regulate retail and online sports gambling in Missouri.
Next Steps for Sports Betting Proposals
The bills have had second readings in the House and on Wednesday night were in the Emerging Issues Committee where a parade of supporters – sportsbook operators, representatives of St. Louis and Kansas City sports teams, casino operators, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, even the City of Kansas City – endorsed the sports betting bills. The proposals are part of the latest effort to approve sports wagering in Missouri, but such efforts have failed in the past.
The lone voice speaking in opposition was that of a Jefferson City resident who challenged the proposed financial advantages that sports gambling would bring.
A wagering tax of 10% would be imposed on the adjusted gross receipts of the sports gambling operators, with major national players such as BetMGM Sportsbook Missouri, FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars and PointsBet very likely to show interest.
Some proponents mentioned a reality that often comes up regarding sports gambling. Many states neighboring Missouri already have wagering on sports, including Kansas, which adopted it last year. In December, Kansas had more than $10 million in gaming revenue with the state’s take topping $1 million for the month. Some other nearby sports gambling states are Illinois, Iowa, Arkansas and Tennessee.
More Than 30 States Offer Legal Wagering on Sports
The argument is obvious: Missouri residents are already doing their sports betting elsewhere and Missouri is losing out on that potential revenue. More than 30 states have legalized some form of sports gambling whether retail, online or both. In most states, DraftKings and FanDuel have turned their lingering nationwide name recognition as fantasy sports operators into positions of market leadership in sports betting. A DraftKings Missouri Sportsbook and FanDuel Missouri Sportsbook would be of great interest to those operators.
“The reality is that anyone right now can download an app on their phone and participate in sports wagering in the state of Missouri. They’re just doing so illegally but it’s happening all across our state,” Christofanelli said at the outset of the public hearing.
“The problem with that is that there’s no regulatory oversight. We have no idea if they’re making sure that these people are of age to place wagers (the Missouri bills set the sports gambling age at 21). There’s no protection for compulsive gambling on these illegal apps. And the revenue goes overseas. … I think that revenue ought to be right here in Missouri and work for Missouri’s priorities.”
One after another, proponents of the sports gambling bills – including representatives from the Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals and other sports teams – addressed the committee and threw their support behind the two measures.
The 2021-22 fiscal year saw the state bring in a record $1.9 billion Missouri casino revenue for the period ending in July 2022.
So Missouri does have a history with gaming. There were no votes taken on the sports betting bills yet. But the legislation is expected to advance through a committee process and finally to the full House.
Hurdles Remain For Sports Gambling Bills
However, that may prove to be the easy part for the sports gambling bills. Last year, sports wagering passed in the Missouri House of Representatives but was stopped cold in the state Senate.
In the Senate, there is significant resistance to passing sports wagering unless it’s also coupled with video lottery terminal (VLT) legislation that would allow gambling machines in a myriad of venues.
It remains to be seen whether the gambling machine issue in the Senate thwarts sports gambling again in Missouri.