The Missouri General Assembly is back in session, and sports betting is once again on the table. And, once again, its fate could lie with the filibuster.
Missouri lawmakers to consider four sports betting bills
Many powerful state lawmakers have made legal Missouri sports betting a legislative priority in 2023.
It has the best chance of passing in Missouri since it was first brought before the General Assembly more than five years ago. The state came very close last year, and at least two state senators and representatives have already filed bills in this session.
Each of the four bills is very similar in scope regarding implementation and administrative fees. There’s one notable exception.
For Hoskins, sports betting & VLTs must pass together
Sen. Denny Hoskins’ bill doesn’t just legalize sports wagering. It also seeks to put video lottery terminals (VLTs) in every corner of the state.
VLTs are electronic gambling machines that are legal only at Missouri’s 13 riverboat casinos. Most of the casinos are, conceivably, against VLTs being available offsite.
Hoskins’ bill, SB 1, specifically wants to allow their placement in fraternal organizations, veterans’ organizations, truck stops and business entities licensed to sell liquor by the drink.
In the past, he has proved himself unwilling to forfeit VLTs from any sports betting bill to pass the state Senate. So much so that Hoskins used the filibuster in 2022 to effectively prevent the legalization of sports wagering.
This time around, Hoskins has made some concessions in his legislation, mainly to the tax rate on sports betting. It’s now in line with the 10% in the other bills. But VLTs remain enough of a priority for him that he could use the filibuster again. It makes sports wagering proponents wonder if wagers will ever be placed in Missouri as long as he remains in office.
Budget deficits spur the need for another revenue source
Hoskins argues that some of the revenue from VLTs could go to fund Missouri’s veterans’ homes and cemeteries, which had a $50 million budget deficit in the last fiscal year.
“My first priority is to honor our commitment to our Missouri veterans and make sure our veterans’ homes and cemeteries are fully funded.”
Based on estimates, sports betting would bring in only about $10 million in gross revenue at a 10% tax rate. State law requires the money must go solely to educational programs.
Meanwhile, VLTs would bring in roughly $250 million to the state. Much of that money would also go toward education, with an emphasis on elementary and secondary education student transportation and workforce development programs.
Hoskins says money must also go to veterans:
“Simply put, sportsbook alone does nothing for our veterans’ homes and cemeteries. VLTs would provide a dedicated funding source. As a veteran with a veterans’ home in my hometown (Warrensburg) and a veterans’ cemetery in my district (Higginsville), I will continue to fight for our Missouri veterans to make sure they are taken care of.”
Hoskins has additional sports betting bill
It’s worth noting that Hoskins has also filed a stand-alone sports betting bill (SB 279). Its language, however, is completely different from SB 1 and every other bill filed on sports wagering thus far.
It could show that, despite how much he has held up sports betting, he does, in fact, support it. But SB 279 doesn’t appear to hold as much clout as the other legislation being considered.
Delay may continue for Missouri sports betting proponents
Matthew Kredell, senior lead writer for PlayUSA, has a more bleak — and perhaps more realistic — outlook for the fate of sports betting in Missouri.
In a comment to PlayMissouri, Kredell noted:
“Missouri is unique among states in that one senator can defeat a bill by essentially stalling with a filibuster when it comes up for a vote. Sen. Hoskins has filibustered sports betting bills the past two years and he tells me he will again this year if it does not include VLTs. The industry’s best chance to get sports betting in Missouri might be to wait until Hoskins terms out in 2025.”
According to Kredell, Rep. Dan Houx — a strong sports betting proponent who filed his own bill — seems to have already come to terms with the fact that another year could go by without a sportsbook in Missouri.