Legalized gambling in Missouri is expected to be a top priority for the 2023 legislature, and Wednesday’s opening of the legislative session did not disappoint.
SB 30, a proposed bill authorizing sports betting in Missouri and sponsored by Senator Tony Luetkemeyer, received its first reading in the chamber Wednesday. Luetkemeyer has proposed a bill to legalize sports betting each year he has been in Senate. A similar bill sponsored by Luetkemeyer made it to the floor last year, but failed to come to a vote.
“I feel more optimistic about the chances of the bill getting a floor vote this session,” Luetkemeyer told the Platte County Landmark in December.
SB 1, a bill proposed by Senator Denny Hoskins, also received its first reading in the Senate on Wednesday. SB 1 would legalize mobile sports gambling. However, Hoskin’s bill seeks to regulate video game terminals, a proposal that has proven contentious in previous legislative sessions.
Meanwhile, Representative Dan Houx used Wednesday’s opening session to introduce his sports betting bill, HB 556, in the Missouri House. HB 556 is similar to the 2022 mobile sports betting bill Houx proposed, HB 2502 which came close to passing last session. HB 556 is identical to the previous HB 2502, except it would raise tax revenue from 8 to 10% and prohibit prop bets on individual performances by college athletes.
Representative Houx told Gaming Today that legalized sports gambling is a key issue with constituents, and he is “very optimistic it will get done this year.”
Finally, Representative Phil Christofanelli used Wednesday’s opening session to introduce HB 581, which would allow sports betting online as well as in Missouri casinos. Christofanelli has filed sports gambling legislation in each of the last three legislative sessions, and each time they have passed the House but failed in the Senate.
Previous Missouri Gambling Legislation
2022 was the fifth consecutive session that sports betting legislation was introduced in Missouri. HB 2502, which passed the House but failed to pass the Senate, would have earmarked 39 total skins (mobile apps) for Missouri’s 13 casinos and six professional sports teams.
Hoskins effectively talked the bill to death by voicing his opposition to the fact that the House legislation failed to legalize the approximately 20,000 unregulated video gaming terminals (VGTs), largely slot machines, that operate as a gray market in Missouri.
Hoskins later agreed to drop his objections to the bill but, by then, it was too late to do anything to revive the vote. It was the farthest a bill has advanced, so there is optimism in 2023 that the VLT issue can be settled or sidestepped.
Could 2023 Be the Year for Sports Betting in Missouri?
Future hope comes from Governor Mike Parson’s acknowledgment in October that Missouri sports betting legislation “is going to happen” but that it is up to state lawmakers to put it on the agenda when the new legislative session begins.
Parsons has remained noncommittal on his support of such bills, though, stating in response to a question about signing proposed HB 4, which has already received the backing of both Republican and Democratic state legislatures, “[t]hat decision will be mine when it hits my desk but until then, you have to let the process work out and see what happens.”
The pressure is on Missouri legislatures to put a sports gambling bill in front of Parsons soon, as the state is currently losing significant potential sports betting revenue to Kansas. GeoComply, a company that monitors gambling transactions, recently reported to The Independent that they blocked 5.7 million attempts by Missourians to log on to gambling sites between September 1 and December 16.
Some of that potential lost revenue comes from Missouri representatives themselves.
“I have absolutely gone to Kansas and made a bet before,” Senator Minority Leader John Rizzo told The Independent. “I would say the overwhelming majority of sports enthusiasts in the Kansas City area have made a bet in Kansas.”
With eight new senators in the 34-member upper chamber and 38 new representatives in the 163-member house, there should be plenty of new life in the Missouri legislature to get gaming on the table.