Missouri Sports Betting Gets First-Round Approval in House

It’s a first-round win for Missouri sports betting. 

The proposal in House Bill 556 – which would bring up to 45 sportsbook apps to Missouri, with revenue taxed at 10 percent — passed by a first-round voice vote in the lower chamber Monday night. It must be called for a second vote in the House before it can advance to the Senate. 

That Missouri House vote could come later this week. 

The live stream of the floor debate on HB 556 was disrupted just minutes after the bill was called up for a first-round vote known as “perfection” on Monday, leaving reporters not present in the House chamber scrambling for information. “Perfection” is a term used by some state legislatures to describe a vote to amend a bill before it is reprinted and voted on again. 

In-state newspapers with reporters at the capital reported that several amendments were turned down before the vote. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Monday that one amendment would have raised the tax rate on revenue to 21 percent – the same tax rate paid on revenue on casino games in the state. 

Another failed amendment would have required a referendum vote to legalize sports betting in Missouri

Houx is Hoping for Support for Missouri Sports Betting From Senate

The sponsor of HB 556 is Rep. Dan Houx. The Warrensburg Republican was also the lead sponsor of a sports betting bill that cleared the House in 2022. That bill (HB 2502) advanced to the Senate last year on a vote of 115-33 but stalled in the Senate. 

photo by Rudy Balasko

In 2022 and now, the main sticking point in the Senate debate on legal sports betting has been amending legislation to legalize now-unregulated video slot machines now operating in the state. Lawmakers often refer to the video slots as “gray” games because they operate in a gray legal area, outside of regulation. A more technical name for the video slots is video lottery terminals, or VLTs. 

There are as many as 20,000 unregulated video slot machines operating in Missouri, by some estimates.

Houx told Fox4 News in January that “it’s always been my belief that video lottery and sports gambling are two separate bills so it’s just a sports gambling bill all on its own,” in HB 556. 

Now, Houx just has to convince the Senate of the same. 

Video Lottery Games Remain an Issue

Getting the Senate on board with legal sports betting outside of a debate on VLTs has been fruitless in past years. Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, has said repeatedly that he wants to address VLT regulation and sports betting in one bill. 

Hoskins filed legislation (SB 1) to accomplish that goal in the current session, but the proposal died in committee. An added issue is a federal court battle now playing out in Missouri between amusement machine companies. Torch Electronics based in Wildwood is facing two federal lawsuits alleging that its unregulated VLTs at truck stops and convenience stores are undercutting profits of other companies, according to a March 16 story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 

Missouri Pro Franchises Rooting for Passage

All six of Missouri’s pro sports teams — the Chiefs, Cardinals, Royals, Blues, Sporting Kansas City, and St. Louis City SC —  have testified in favor of Houx’s proposal. Speaking in favor of the proposal at a Feb. 24 committee hearing was St. Louis Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III, who called delayed legal sports betting in Missouri a “downside” for pro teams and fans.

“One of the downsides of the delay of several years here is that fans haven’t been able to (bet on sports legally),” DeWitt said. “However, one of the good sides is that we’ve learned from other states. We’ve learned how to tweak this to make it more reflective of the market that’s out there.”

A fiscal note on HB 556 estimates legal sports betting in Missouri would generate $950 million in adjusted gross revenue through 2027, including $70 million to $100 million for the state.

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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