Missouri Legislature A No-Show On Sports Betting

Written By Matthew Kredell on May 11, 2022 - Last Updated on May 12, 2022
MO sports bill dead for 2022

Once again, the “Show-Me State” showed nothing when it came time to pass sports betting legislation.

Rep. Phil Christofanelli tells PlayMissouri that lawmakers won’t get a Missouri sports betting bill done this year.

“It’s dead,” Christofanelli said in a text. “RIP.”

Christofanelli was one of the sponsors of a joint proposal from casinos and sports teams for a standalone sports betting bill.

Asked for a comment, Christofanelli replied: “We will try again next year!”

That’s a familiar refrain in Missouri, which has considered sports betting legislation since 2018.

The Missouri legislature is set to adjourn for the year Friday. But with lawmakers split into factions on key issues such as redistricting, initiative petitioning and abortion leading to long filibusters, there was chatter that lawmakers might just pack it in Thursday.

Industry sources told PlayMissouri they were lobbying for sports betting passage until the final gavel. But they admitted the effort looked close to dead.

A legislative source in the Senate told PlayMissouri:

“I would say our version in the Senate will not be taken up and passed, and we don’t have an actual vehicle Senate bill which [sports betting] could be legitimately kept on if it passed and went to conference.”

Video lottery terminals once again get in way

In previous years, the issue of regulating video lottery terminals always got in the way of Missouri sports betting legislation. This year turned out no different.

That’s why the teams joined casinos to ask for sports betting to pass as a standalone issue.

The House passed the bill in March, a first for Missouri. Suddenly, there was hope that this year could be different.

Sen. Denny Hoskins is the biggest proponent for regulating VLTs along with sports wagering. He argues that both are gaming currently occurring in the state in need of regulation. More than 10,000 slot-like gray machines operate in Missouri bars, restaurants, truck stops, fraternal and veterans organizations.

But casinos vehemently oppose any legalization of these machines as video lottery terminals.

After telling PlayMissouri he had agreed to run the issues separately, Hoskins added VLTs when the Senate tried to move the House sports betting bill. Then he filibustered when an amendment would have stripped VLTs from the bill.

With it apparent that Senate leadership won’t support any bill with VLTs, Hoskins appeared to make a legitimate attempt at a standalone bill last week with a higher tax rate and fees. But language allowing lottery kiosks to offer parlay bets included removal of a prohibition on lottery games that are “coin- or currency-operated.”

Casinos saw this as a back-door attempt for VLTs and lobbied against the bill.

Kansas showing up Missouri neighbors

This legislative session showcased the rivalry between Kansas and Missouri.

Missouri may have the Kansas City sports teams that Kansans support, but the Kansas side of the border will soon have sports betting.

Kansas finalized sports betting legislation last month. The bill earmarks 80% of sports betting revenue to go toward a fund to help finance a stadium to attract the Kansas City Chiefs, or another professional sports team, into Kansas.

The Missouri bill passed by the House would have given professional sports teams, including the Chiefs, a sports betting license with one online skin. The state’s 13 casinos could have had up to three skins, with a maximum of six per casino company.

Comments made by the Chiefs president on how the team is considering stadium proposals in Kansas became the focus of a Missouri committee hearing on sports betting.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said she would sign the bill this week, making Kansas the 35th state with legal sports betting.

It appears Missourians will have to wait another year to be shown legal sports betting. Or they can just go across the Kansas border.

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Matthew Kredell

Matthew has covered efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling since 2007. His reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. A USC journalism alum, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News and has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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