Missouri football fans will have two questions in mind when their state lawmakers get back to work next month: who will face the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs, and why do sports fans have to leave Missouri to place their bets?
That’s not lost on incoming Missouri Speaker of the House Dean Plocher. The Des Peres Republican said in September that he plans to make legal sports betting a priority when the House convenes for the 2023 regular session next month, according to a report in Ozarks First.
“He said it’s something that already should have been done,” the news site reported.
One Missouri state representative is already falling in line. Rep. Dan Houx, R-Warrensburg, told Gaming Today in October that he plans to file a bill next session that is similar to his 2022 sports betting bill. That bill would have legalized online sports betting tied to pro franchises and casinos, and in-person sportsbooks at casinos. Houx said he has a good feeling about sports betting’s chances next year.
“People want it. The legislature wants it,” Houx told Gaming Today. “It’s going to be a top priority – I’d say in the top 5 – in January.”
But issues loom. Attempts to get sports betting through the Missouri General Assembly in both 2021 and 2022 were tripped up by parallel attempts to regulate over 20,000 untaxed video slot machines across the state. Even so, lawmakers continue to bring both issues to the table each session.
The next session that starts on Jan. 4 appears to be no different – or will it be?
The VLTs Conundrum
Sen. Denny Hoskins wants to tackle both issues at once. The Warrensburg Republican tried to add regulation of video lottery terminals (VLTs) to a sports betting bill in 2022 only to have the bill die back in April. Now he’s prefiled a bill for 2023 that tackles sports betting and VLT regulation all over again.
The new bill would do two main things: authorize retail and online sports betting, and require lottery regulation of video slots at truck stops and organizations like the VFW.
The bill number itself could mean the legislation has a good chance at Senate passage. Hoskins’ bill is numbered SB 1 — a prime spot that often marks a bill as a legislative priority in any given session.
One reason for the top number may be sports betting’s growing popularity nationally (and Missouri’s current inability to capitalize on it). Another perhaps more likely reason is that the proposal — titled the Honoring Missouri Veterans and Supporting Missouri Education Act — would fund both education and workforce development in the state. VLT receipts would be taxed at 36 percent under the proposal. Sports betting would be taxed at 10 percent.
That’s the same tax rate for sports betting in SB 30 filed last week by Sen. Majority Whip Tony Luetkemeyer. But that bill doesn’t (yet) address VLTs.
Still, it remains to be seen if Hoskins can get the Senate on board with the legislation next month, especially if he pushes ahead with VLT regulation.
Two senators who called amendments blamed for dinging sports betting’s chance at passage the past two years will still be in office. One is Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, whose referendum amendment stalled Hoskins’ efforts in 2021. The other is Sen. Mike Bernskoetter. The Jefferson City Republican filed an amendment to strip VLT language from Senate changes to Houx’s bill in April. What happens next is anyone’s guess.
Houx Still Hopeful (And He’s Sure the Chiefs Will Stay in Missouri)
On the House side, SB 1 might be a bill that Houx and Plocher can get behind. The sports betting language in the bill is almost identical to Houx’s HB 2502, which was on the verge of passing last spring until Bernskoetter’s amendment forced the bill to a grinding halt.
Back in October, Houx thought any bill he filed for the next session would have a higher tax rate than 10 percent – perhaps between 15 and 17 percent. But he didn’t say the rate was non-negotiable.
What he did tell Gaming Today this fall is that casinos and pro franchises would both be part of the sports betting discussion forward, with retail and mobile licensing for casinos and mobile licensing for franchises. Those franchises include the Chiefs. Which raised another point.
Houx was unyielding when asked if the Chiefs can be lured to Kansas where sports betting is already live.
Missouri, he said, is Chiefs’ territory.
“If you want to see a real border war, if the Chiefs packed up and went to Kansas, it would be something else. I think you would see memorabilia burnt in the streets, so to speak,” he told Gaming Today.