Renewed debate

Missouri lawmakers introduce bills to open sports betting, ban "pre-reveal" games and expand VLTs

Missouri Senate.
United States
Reading time 3:27 min

The debate on the legality of “pre-reveal” games and the opening of the sports betting market in Missouri has been reignited. A series of bills, which would change the gambling landscape in the state, seek to ban “pre-reveal” machines, expand casino offerings and authorize video lottery games in new locations.

On Thursday, a Senate committee held a hearing on a bill to ban “pre-reveal” games, which have become popular throughout the state, reports The Missouri Independent. The machines, which have become a source of debate for a time now, have led to several pending prosecutions, while other parties maintain the games are not illegal at all.

A bill, filed by State Sen. Dan Hegeman, was not voted on by the Government Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee on Thursday. Hegeman said that legislation was not needed for prosecutors to act, citing the fact that a gambling company was convicted and had their machines destroyed in Platte County last year.

Lobbyist Tom Robbins argued Hegeman’s bill is intended to put one of the main vendors of games in the state, Torch Electronics, out of business, and claimed they were legal because players can find out if they will win the next game before they put any money into the machine, further reports the previously cited source. 

He said they are not “games of chance,” unlike the ones found illegal in Platte County, which required players to deposit money before learning whether they would win or lose. Torch currently faces prosecution in Linn County for felony promotion of gambling and is suing the state in Cole County Circuit Court, seeking a judicial declaration they are operating legally.

The games, designated as “no chance gaming”, look similar to electronic slot machines and offer a variety of games, with bets that can be placed for 50 cents or more. Missouri deems it illegal to operate slot machines outside of casinos, where the state taxes them at 21%. Pre-reveal games operate without state regulation, with no accounting for how much money is placed in them.

The games operate in a loophole, and vendors argue players can know the outcome of every spin before spending money, thus meaning they are not games of chance. The Missouri Gaming Association, which supports Hegeman’s bill, has joined criticism of pre-reveal games and opposes plans to replace them with video lottery devices.

But the bill on pre-reveal machines is not the only one seeking to change the gambling industry in Missouri. Some Missouri lawmakers are making a push to legalize sports betting, in an effort to keep money currently going to other states or illegal gambling in the state, reports KMOV4.

"We've been seeing people who have wanted to place legal bets on sporting events taking their money to other states and those tax dollars rather than being invested in Missouri schools, they are going to border states so we obviously want to keep those educational resources here in the state of Missouri," Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer said.

Senate Bill 764, introduced by Luetkemeyer, seeks to allow sports betting in casino boats and online across the state, with geofencing ensuring that the person is in Missouri. Proponents claim the legislation could bring in $50 million to the state.

Sen. Denny Hoskins is also seeking to legalize both in-person and online wagering through a bill, which taxes casinos offering sports gaming at 21%. “Hopefully we can get something passed,” Hoskins said. “There are 30 states with sportsbooks. We have all the stakeholders on the same page.”

Hoskins, who chairs the Senate Economic Development Committee, has long been attempting to bring sportsbooks to the state. Back in April last year, one of his bills failed to get off the Senate floor. Six bills on sports wagering were filed last year, proving an interest exists in legalizing the market, but no consensus yet exists among lawmakers.

But Hoskins is also sponsoring legislation that would allow an expansion of lottery operations, seeking to authorize video lottery terminals in new locations and pull-tab games in all lottery retail sites, reports

Missouri Senator Denny Hoskins.

SB642 establishes a limit of 15,000 video lottery terminals to be placed in the state. Video lottery game terminals may be placed in fraternal organizations, veterans' organizations, bars, and truck stops. The State Lottery Commission may also authorize the placement of pull-tab machines in video lottery game retailer establishments.

Notably, the bill seeks to prohibit companies convicted of violating state gambling laws from becoming authorized VLT vendors, which would exclude “pre-reveal” machine gaming providers that have lost their criminal cases.

Hoskins had described among his top priorities for 2022 to “do something about” unlicensed gambling machines. “I would like to see these “grey” slot machines go away and be replaced with legal, regulated video gaming terminals that are monitored by the Missouri Lottery,” he said earlier this month.

While the senator had tried in the past to combine provisions declaring pre-reveal games as illegal, authorizing sports wagering and allowing video lottery, he is now keeping the proposals separate. Both his bill to extend video lotteries and the legislation to legalize sports wagering have been assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee.