Missouri Lawmaker Files 4th Sports Betting Bill — And It Regulates VLTs

Written By Steve Schult on February 28, 2024 - Last Updated on February 29, 2024
A picture of legislation for a story about a fourth Missouri sports betting bill

A fourth sports betting bill was filed in Missouri on Tuesday.

Lawmakers introduced three bills during Tuesday’s House of Representatives session, including HB 2835. House Minority Leader Rep. Crystal Quade sponsored the bill to legalize Missouri sports betting.

The bill was read for a second time during Wednesday’s House session. Eventually, legislators will refer it to a committee hearing for in-depth discussion about the bill’s details.

States with legal sports betting markets surround Missouri. Quade said she was tired of watching residents cross state lines to bet elsewhere.

“Missouri hasn’t been able to get sports betting across the finish line preventing us from increasing our revenue for critical programs,” Quade told PlayMissouri in a statement. “While our communities are desperate for more funding for law enforcement and childcare, Missourians are crossing state lines to bet on our Super Bowl champions, among many others.”

HB 2835 would legalize VLTs

As Quade mentioned, sports betting legislation easily passed the House in previous years.

However, it always stalled in the upper chamber.

The reason? Video lottery terminals.

Sen. Denny Hoskins thwarted past efforts because the bills wouldn’t legalize VLTs, machines at restaurants and bars that resemble casino slot machines.

Quade’s legislation addresses the issue. The bill would expressly legalize and regulate VLTs.

“Caught up in the Republican infighting has also been the illegal video lottery machines popping up in every corner of our state. We need to regulate them,” Quade said. “Along with regulation comes a chance to help bring money for law enforcement, our veterans, and our severely underfunded public schools.”

Her bill would tax revenue from these machines at 33%. The proceeds would go to the Lottery fund, which contributes to the Missouri school system.

Legislators were hesitant to legalize these machines because they are incredibly similar to the gambling found at Missouri’s 13 casinos. Last year, a lobbyist for the VLT industry told the Missouri Independent the casinos were the main hurdle for VLT legalization.

“The casinos don’t want to give any opportunity for anybody outside of a casino to have a gaming opportunity at all,” Andy Arnold of the Missouri Coalition for Video Lottery said. “And even if they could participate in the opportunity, they want to control it all.”

Missouri has a plethora of options for sports betting legalization

Missouri now has four pieces of sports betting legislation moving through both chambers of the General Assembly. There are already two bills in the Senate and Quade’s bill joins Rep. Dan Houx’s HB 2331 in the House.

However, Houx’s bill has already overwhelmingly passed the Special Committee on Public Policy and the Administrative Oversight Committee. It awaits a general floor vote before heading to the Senate for further movement.

In both chambers, one bill explicitly legalizes VLTs and one doesn’t.

Additionally, the state’s professional sports franchises are backing a ballot initiative effort.

Ballot initiative could be the path forward if VLT issue is too contentious

Yesterday, the political action committee doing the legwork on signature-gathering efforts said they had already got 100,000 Missouri voters to sign the petition. It takes about 180,000 signatures to get on November’s ballot. In other words, they are more than halfway to giving the voters a choice.

The ballot initiative is straightforward. It only deals with sports betting.

Missouri’s pro sports teams are behind the initiative and some of the largest online sportsbooks in the U.S. fund it.

If lawmakers can’t agree on VLT status, Missouri sports bettors still have hope for a legal market thanks to the initiative efforts.

Photo by PlayMissouri
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Steve Schult

Steve Schult is the managing editor of PlayMissouri and several other Catena Media sites. The New York native spent a decade covering high-stakes poker tournaments for some of the game’s biggest outlets before joining Catena Media at the start of 2022. Since then, Schult has covered several regional gambling markets including Florida, California, Ohio and Kentucky.

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