Missouri Sports Betting Bill Hits Senate Snag

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A late-night amendment tripped up Missouri sports betting legislation in the state Senate on Tuesday, although the delay — at least for now — appears to be temporary. 

The legislation took a detour when the chamber narrowly voted 17-15 to amend a proposed Senate substitute to Senate Bill 98 with a referendum clause proposed by Sen. Mike Moon of Ash Grove. A referendum clause is found in a committee substitute of the bill, but was purposely left out of the proposed Missouri Senate substitute up for consideration Tuesday. 

A referendum would put Missouri sports betting and other provisions in SB 98 — including legalization of a limited number of video lottery game terminals, or VLTs –before Missouri voters for approval in the Nov. 2022 General Election. 

SB 98 sponsor Sen. Denny Hoskins opposes the referendum. The Warrensburg Republican said during last night’s debate that a referendum would require a straight up-or-down vote on legalization of sports wagering, VLTs, and other provisions in the bill. 

Voter rejection, said a visibly frustrated Hoskins, would leave an estimated 20,000 unregulated VLTs — called “gray games,” because they operate in a gray area of the law — running unfettered statewide. 

“Legal … No Matter What” 

Moon’s amendment doesn’t kill SB 98, but it does slow the process — especially if Hoskins decides to try to pass the bill without a referendum. The perturbed bill sponsor made his displeasure known to Moon by citing the gray game issue. 

“Was that your intent, to make VLTs legal in the state no matter what, Senator?” lobbed Hoskins. “There’s going to be a question on there that says ‘should these machines be considered illegal?’ and if they say ‘no,’ that means they’re going to be legal.” 

Hoskins moved SB 98 back onto the Missouri Senate legislative calendar after the referendum amendment was adopted. That frees him up to call up the bill for consideration later, possibly this week. 

The Senate had been expected to finish its work on the Missouri sports betting bill mid-week and forward it to the Missouri House. 

What’s Next For Missouri Sports Betting

Attempts to get the Missouri sports betting bill moving quickly began last night when Sen. Dave Schatz of Sullivan offered to propose an amendment to remove SB 98’s provisions relating to gray games. 

“That’s my goal, to remove that so there’s no referendum on that,” said Schatz. “I do believe that your referendum clause has merit, but I will remove — if we can get an amendment drafted — the provisions that may be in question, and hopefully we can find another place for those things to go.” 

Moon said that kind of amendment — if filed — would be a step in the right direction. It’s uncertain what amendments will actually be filed. 

The Missouri Senate still has time to advance SB 98 in some form in the next few days. Once changes are properly vetted and voted out of the Senate, the bill can advance to the House for its consideration. 

The last day of the 2021 Regular Session of the Missouri General Assembly is scheduled for May 14. 

About the Author

Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region 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, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.

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