Election Key To Future Of Sports Betting In Missouri

Written By Jack McGee on November 3, 2022
Election pivotal to sports betting legalization in Missouri

There’s several key issues on voters’ minds in the 2022 Election. Inflation, abortion, immigration – they’re all on the table. In Missouri, sports betting is too.

While not directly up to the voter, like recreational marijuana is, Missouri voters can indirectly determine whether or not sports betting will become legal in 2023.

Biggest obstacle could be in Senate

Last session, as they’ve done each year since 2018, lawmakers failed to pass legislation legalizing Missouri sports betting. What’s worse, rival neighbor Kansas launched sports wagering earlier this year, siphoning money from The Show Me State in the process.

Looking at the next legislative session in Missouri, the biggest hurdle on Nov. 8 will likely be in the Senate. That’s despite every member of the House of Representatives being up for re-election.

Some candidates in both chambers face no challenge on the ballot, while others have to pull off winning an election before they can begin to think about sports betting.

The House is an easy ‘Yes’ on sports betting

With no Democratic opposition, Rep. Dan Houx of District 54 is a shoo-in for his last term in the House. As one of the most vocal proponents of sports betting, Houx will ensure the conversation will, at the least, keep going.

In 2022’s legislative session, Houx did more than talk, He orchestrated a pair of sports betting bills that cleared the House with a whopping 115 votes for and only 33 against. But they hit a brick wall in the Senate, partly attributed to a difference in priorities.

Since then, however, some important voices in the Senate appear to be willing to revisit sports betting in 2023. And perhaps this time, with bartering for Missouri’s professional sports teams by neighboring states sparking urgency, a collaborative bill can make its way to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk.

All eyes will end up on the governor

Parson, however, appears complacent on sports betting. The governor doesn’t possess the same vigor on the topic as he did for Sen. Lincoln Hough’s recent tax cut legislation, which could put the state in a serious budget bind.

Parson told KTVI in St. Louis that there’s no urgency on sports wagering legislation.

“I think it’s going to be one of those things that’s coming when the day comes. The day is going to happen, but that needs to go through the legislative process, and it goes in there year in and year out.”

Parson didn’t indicate whether he would sign sports betting into law. He simply said he is prepared to make a decision when a bill finds his desk.

Senate appears ready to take on sports betting

A reason for optimism for sports betting proponents is the influential voices in the Senate seeing it as a priority in the next legislative session.

Sen. John Rizzo of District 11, the Democratic minority leader, vocalized the urgency of needing to pass sports betting in a recent interview with FOX 4.

“If I go home next May or I’m at my next fantasy football draft without sports betting, they are going to put me out on a rail. We’ve got to do whatever it is we need to do to get it done. My constituents want it, but more importantly, it’s just something this state needs to get done.”

Rizzo is not up for re-election until 2024, so he will have, at a minimum, another two years to help oversee any betting legislation.

Sen. Caleb Rowden, the Republican majority leader who is also free from the pressures of an election for another two years, has also indicated his plans to prioritize sports betting in 2023. That further cements the fact that sports betting is not a party line issue but a bipartisan one.

Plocher faces tough challenge

However, Rep. Dean Plocher of District 89, a big sports betting proponent and the assumed next speaker of the House, doesn’t have it so easy. One would assume a three-term incumbent facing the same Democratic challenger as he did in 2020 should be a shoe-in, but redistricting has made statehouse races unpredictable.

Even if the strongest legislative voices in support of sports betting find themselves out of Jefferson City come next year, the support is there. It’s just a matter of checking all the boxes for past sports betting opponent Sen. Dennis Hoskins and his colleagues in the General Assembly’s upper chamber.

They’re tired of this still being up for debate, too.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Jack McGee

Jack, a Missouri State University journalism alum, has primarily covered government and politics with the Springfield Daily Citizen, which has contributed in keeping an eye out for what the Missouri legislature is up to when it comes to sports betting and other regulated forms of gaming. More of his work can be found at https://jack-mcgee.com.

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