On Wednesday, Missouri Lottery Executive Director May Reardon and Missouri Gaming Commission General Counsel Edward Grewach argued before the Senate Economic Development Committee that sports wagering, as well as online lottery ticket sales, would dramatically increase revenues. They also stressed that lawmakers should take measures regarding the unregulated gaming that is occurring on an estimated 15,000 illegal video game terminals across the state. However, it remains unclear who would administer the sports wagering program should lawmakers create one during their 2022 session, beginning January 11.
According to the Missouri Gaming Association (MGA), Missouri allows bingo gaming, riverboat casinos, and online gambling. Gaming taxes and fees are the state's fifth-largest source of revenue, placing it ninth in the nation for gaming receipts.
Casino operators are among those lobbying lawmakers to legalize sports gaming. Thirty-two states have done so since 2018, but efforts in Missouri have fallen short in consecutive sessions.
Senate Economic Development Committee chair Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, has spearheaded the stunted efforts and has pledged to sponsor 2022 legislation to get it done. He withdrew a 2021 bill proposing legal sports gaming.
The fiscal year 2021, which ended June 30, was a record year for the Missouri Lottery with ticket sales up by nearly 20% and receipts topping $1.8 billion, netting $345 million for state education programs.
During FY21, Missouri's casinos hosted 27.6 million visitors who lost $1.7 billion on slot machines and table games, a boost of about $370 million over FY20, when casinos were shuttered for more than two months by COVID-19 restrictions, according to the gaming commission.
More people visited Missouri casinos in FY20 than FY21 even though more was spent at casinos in FY21.
Grewach, whose commission regulates casinos, but not the lottery, said: "It appears we have fewer people going to the casino but spending more money per patron than they did in prior years.”
Reardon called for authorizing online lottery ticket sales, noting nine states have done so. When Virginia authorized online lottery ticket sales, she said, the state recouped a $1 billion boost in sales over its first 14 months, stressing the need to “modernize channels of distribution”.
Reardon added that the Missouri Lottery should administer any "new products" authorized by lawmakers, noting 70% of global online sports wagering is conducted by lotteries.
"Lotteries are very efficient in operating these products," she said, noting 21.2 cents of every dollar generated by the lottery goes to education while only 1.99 cents of every dollar generated by casinos goes to education.
On the other hand, Grewach added that if lawmakers allow sports betting, only wagers placed by a person physically present in the state to a company also residing in Missouri would be legal. Any proposal to do so, he cautioned, would "create some regulatory challenges for us."
Hoskins last year sponsored Senate Bill 98, which would have allowed the commission, not the lottery, to license casinos to offer sports wagering. According to its Fiscal Note, legal sports gaming would generate $200 million annually for education programs.
The bill targeted proliferating "gray market" machines by authorizing up to 10,000 of them in bars and truck stops, as well as for fraternal/veterans' organizations, with no location allowed to have more than five, reports the Washington Examiner.