While 2023 failed to bring Missouri sports betting, efforts are on to both legalize wagering and introduce a self-exclusion program for problem gambling. House bills SB852 and SB824, keeping their names from the previous year, have been filed in the Senate once again, with state legislators hoping that they will receive a warmer response in 2024.
Senator Tony Luetkemeyer has filed SB852, the more significant of the two bills to legalize sports betting in Missouri, marking his second consecutive effort with the same bill. The bill aims to empower the state’s riverboat casinos to partner with up to three online sports betting platforms. The bill will also provide for the state’s professional teams to partner with an online sportsbook each.
Missouri’s Heavy License Fees for Operators
As per the stipulations of the bill, any operator who wishes to apply for a license to operate in Missouri will need to pay a $100,000 fee, subject to renewal every four years. SB852, if passed, will allow players aged 21 and over to enter wagers on professional sports such as the NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, and more. If the bill is passed and turned into law, the official catalog will be finalized by the Missouri Gaming Commission.
The bill explicitly mentions the exclusion of elementary and high school athletic events — wagering on these events will remain illegal under the provisions of the bill. Additionally, prop betting on college sports and any wagers featuring a college team from Missouri will remain illegal, even if the bill is passed.
If legalized, the state will collect 12% of the gross gaming revenue generator from the licensed sportsbooks in the state, with additional allowances for promotional credit deductions for a set period. In the first year, 100% of all promotional credits will be deducted, with a reduction of 25% set for the next four years. At the end of five years, there will be no further deduction of promotional credits.
The second bill, SB824, filed by Senator Denny Hoskins, aims to legalize video lottery terminals in addition to many of the stipulations contained in SB 852. The bill, named “Honoring Missouri Veterans and Supporting Missouri Education Act,” will allow establishments from across the state to host video lottery terminals in an effort to curb the black market in the state. However, the bill also covers sports betting in its ambit, making it similar but not identical to SB852.
Unlike the first SB852, SB824 proposes a slightly lower 10% tax on gross gaming revenue while including similar measures for promotional credit deductions. The fragmentation of legislation arises due to the conflicting viewpoints of lawmakers on video lottery terminals. Incidentally, Senator Denny Hoskins’ insistence on video lottery terminals has a detrimental impact on the developments surrounding the legalization of sports betting in the state. It has been reported that Hoskins has vehemently opposed any bill that aims to legalize sports betting with the exclusion of video lottery terminals. He has reportedly vowed to prevent any bill from passing if it does not include video lottery terminals in its purview.
Missouri’s Previous Attempts at Legalization
The state’s sports betting coalition has filed four petitions to include wagering on the ballot during the upcoming elections in November. In 2023, hopes of legalization quickly evaporated when Rep. Dan Houx’s bill was not taken up in the Senate, while the other two bills didn’t make it out of the Committee. HB556 passed the Missouri House of Representatives in March 2023, with a 118-35 vote approving the bill. Once the bill reached the Appropriations Committee in early April, it remained untouched until the end of the legislative session two months later.
This past version of the bill would have allowed the state’s riverboat casinos to partner with up to three online sportsbooks, similar to the bills that are about to be passed this year. Despite Missouri having seven neighboring states offering sports betting in some form, this was not the first time a sports betting bill failed in the state. The long-running prohibitive context in the state has ensured that no bills attempting to legalize sports betting would pass, aided in part by Senator Denny Hoskins’ insistence on the inclusion of video lottery terminals in sports betting bills.
GeoComply stated that it had stopped nearly nine million wagering attempts from Missouri in 2022, indicating a strong appetite for wagering in the state. It remains to be seen whether state machinery will be able to find a way around Senator Hoskins’ adamant stance on video lottery terminals and legalize sports betting in Missouri.