Sports betting legalization in Missouri is still a highly debated issue, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle acknowledge the state is playing a losing hand by keeping the practice unregulated. Both Senate and House leadership have seemingly agreed the topic is a priority, which is set to be reintroduced during the next legislative session.
Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, stated that it is “ridiculous” not to allow it as many people go to Kansas every weekend to place bets. “They get up early, they go to Kansas, they make their bets, and they come back to watch the football game,” Fox 2 reported.
The remark comes at a point in which 36 states nationwide have legalized sports wagering, including all of Missouri’s neighbors. Earlier this month, it went live in Kansas, just days before the NFL season started.
Rep. Kurtis Gregory, R-Marshall, echoed this sentiment and added that over 340,000 Missourians have attempted to access Kansas sportsbooks, 57% of which came from Kansas City, Missouri.
The committee met to discuss Rep. Dan Houx, R-Warrensburg's sports betting bill filed at a special session called by Gov. Parson. Houx told members he introduced the bill to keep the conversation going after lawmakers failed to pass it during the regular session.
According to the Kansas Lottery, in the first two weeks of sports betting in the Sunflower State, 2.4 million bets were placed. The company GeoComply indicated 16,000 people tried to make a bet in Missouri the first day sports betting was legal in Kansas but were blocked. Of those people, 60% of them were in Kansas City, Missouri.
Houx’s legislation, House Bill 4, is similar to what was before lawmakers this spring, allowing to place wagers on college and professional teams, and imposing a 10% tax rate on sports bets, estimated to bring in $16 million to the state annually.
Sean Ostrow from Sports Betting Alliance, representing Bally’s, BetMGM, Fanatics, FanDuel and DraftKings, pointed out that there is “a tremendous appetite for sports” in the Midwest, “and we would assume Missouri is no different.” He added that within the first weekend of sports betting in Kansas, the Sports Betting Alliance saw 132,000 new users.
A point of contention during the past session was “grey machines”, video lottery games like slot machines that do not contain consumer protections and are not regulated by law. It is estimated that there are 20,000 of these machines throughout the state. Sports betting legislation in the state was previously tied to language seeking to regulate these machines, but Hoax’s new bill does not address it.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson
Despite renewed efforts, sports betting is unlikely to be discussed during the current special session, which was called to address income taxes and tax credits for farmers. The governor’s communications director Kelli Jones said Monday: “Sports betting is clearly beyond the call and does not relate to Gov. Parson’s topics in the call. I do not anticipate the call being expanded to include sports betting.”
Representatives from the Royals, Kansas City Current, St. Louis City SC, Blues, and Cardinals have repeatedly talked in favor of legalizing sports wagering. “We would like to see it passed, and we think this is a good way for us to keep this issue in the forefront,” said Rich Aubuchon, lobbyist for the Kansas City Chiefs, in regards to the bill's reintroduction.
When asked about sports betting during a press conference Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said it will be a priority next session, while Rizzo added it makes no sense that Missourians can waste their life savings at a casino but can't place a bet on their favorite team. “I totally agree with the floor leader, these chambers look like fools for not getting it done," he said.
Incoming Speaker of the House Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, said he also plans to make sports betting a priority next session. He said it’s something that already should have been done, according to FOX2.