Missouri Sports Betting Bills Backed By Pro Teams, Riverboat Casinos

Missouri pro sports teams and riverboat casinos spent hours on Tuesday trying to convince state legislators to legalize sports betting in the state.

Both camps testified before the House Special Committee on Public Policy in favor of two Missouri sports betting bills that would grant mobile sportsbook licenses to up to 13 casinos and about a half a dozen pro sports stadiums and arenas.

Each casino would be eligible for up to three mobile apps, with teams eligible for one mobile sportsbook per stadium or arena — referred to in the legislation as a “designated sports district.” 

Casinos could also accept in-person sports bets under the legislation.

Lead bill sponsors Rep. Dan Houx, R-Warrensburg (HB 2502) and Rep. Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peters (HB 2556) have both supported Missouri sports betting bills since the U.S. Supreme Court turned regulation of the industry over to states in 2018.

Christofanelli called the current proposals “a compromise bill between many of the stakeholders,” including state, casinos, and pro teams. Houx described the legislation as a “revenue generator.”

“This bill is about more than a sportsbook,” the Warrensburg Republican told the committee. 

Pro Sports Teams Testify In Support Of Proposals

St. Louis Cardinals President Bill DeWitt is one of several team officials who testified Tuesday in support of the bills. The leagues, DeWitt said, are “on the same page” in support of the legislation, which they see as a way to enhance engagement with their fan base.

The teams are also behind a 10 percent tax on adjusted gross sports betting receipts proposed in both bills. Missouri Gaming Association representative Mike Winter told the committee the proposed rate is a compromise above the 6.75 percent rate backed in past years. 

“Iowa is 6.75 (percent), Illinois is 15 (percent). But the range (today) is 6.75 to 51 percent,” said Winter. “We’re trying to get to a place where there is a reasonable tax rate.”

Applicants for a mobile sports wagering license would also pay an application fee of $100,000, renewable for $50,000 every two years. Application fees for an in-person license would be an initial $50,000.

Will Missouri Sports Betting Be Legal In Late 2022? 

Whether or not the legislation proposed by Houx and Christofanelli will survive remains to be seen. 

A total of 31 sports betting bills are expected to be filed before the 2022 Missouri General Assembly ends its regular session on May 13.  That creates a competitive environment in which all sorts of bills are likely to surface. 

Bills lumping together regulation of sports betting and now-unlicensed VLTs in Missouri have complicated legalization in the past. So have referendum proposals.

Sports betting legislation proposed by Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, in 2021 was upended by an amendment that would have pushed the issue onto a referendum ballot sometime this year.

What happens this session ultimately depends on the political will of the state’s lawmakers.

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Legislative Writer
Based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region, Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, Hanchett has been known to watch UK. basketball from time to time.

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