Sen. Denny Hoskins has tried to legalize Missouri sports betting for years. So it was a bit of a surprise when the state lawmaker on Wednesday tried to kill the best chance yet to bring legal sportsbooks to the state.
Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, nixed a vote on this session’s top sports betting bill (House Bill 2502) this week by filibustering an attempt to remove proposed legalization of 5,000 video lottery terminals, or VLTs, from a compromise amendment. The compromise would also have bumped up the proposed tax on Missouri sports betting operators from eight percent to 10 percent.
Sports betting could still pass in the two weeks left before lawmakers adjourn the current legislative session on May 13. But there is no guarantee of a win, says the man who appears to be holding all the cards.
“I’ll never say never, though. There is a little over two weeks of session left,” Hoskins told radio host Alex Gold.
Hoskins Says ‘Casino Greed’ To Blame For Derailment Of Sports Betting Vote
Wednesday’s shake-up was an unexpected development in what many had hoped would be Senate passage of HB 2502. Advanced by a House vote of 115-33 on March 24, the bill would allow mobile sportsbooks operated by the state’s riverboat casinos and pro sports teams. Casinos would also be allowed to have in-person sportsbooks.
Hoskins blamed the downfall of this week’s sports betting vote on what he called “casino greed” and fellow Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, a colleague who had proposed the amendment to strip VLT language from the compromise. Casinos, of course, are against the VLTs.
Hoskins told Gold that he had worked one-on-one with Senate budget chair Dan Hegeman on the compromise amendment to specifically include the VLT provisions. Approval of the 5,000 regulated VLTs – mainly at fraternal and veteran organizations – would have eliminated a growing number of unregulated “gray machines” in Missouri and increased state revenue by $45 million per year, Hoskins said.
But the Warrensburg Republican also doesn’t seem entirely happy with the compromise — specifically the proposed 10 percent tax on sports betting operators. That tax rate would generate only about $10 million in state revenue, compared to tens of millions more dollars Hoskins said would be generated by a 21 percent tax on operators in a rival bill (SB 643) he has proposed this session.
The casinos and pro sports teams have joined together to support HB 2502 instead.
“I’ve always supported sportsbook, but because of basically the casino greed (I can’t),” Hoskins told Gold.
VLTs Or Bust?
Overall, though, Hoskins seems stuck on VLTs as the key to getting sports betting passed this session. And he doesn’t show any signs of changing his mind, based on his interview with Alex Gold.
“Sportsbook is not going to pass unless some sort of version of VLTs passes,” Hoskins told Gold. “We can’t all just be shills for the casinos.”
That said, there is still a little time in this legislative session for Hoskins to change his mind about HB 2502, which he might feel more pressure to do with yesterday’s passage of legal sports betting in Kansas.
He has about two weeks to decide.