Lawmaker, Sports Betting ‘Obstructionist,’ Voices Concerns Over Ballot Initiative

Written By Adam Hensley on April 22, 2024 - Last Updated on April 24, 2024
Sen. Denny Hoskins on the left, with Rick Brattin on the right.

The petition to get Missouri sports betting legalization on November’s ballot reportedly has the required signatures. Unsurprisingly, Sen. Denny Hoskins has issues with it.

Hoskins, who has almost single-handedly blocked sports betting legislation from passing at the Missouri Capitol the last few years, told reporters last week where he stands on the ballot initiative.

“I’m not against putting that question on the ballot.”

He is, however, not a fan of the initiative’s proposed tax rate and other fees, saying they are “too low.” Hoskins also said there needs to be more funding for problem gambling.

“I want to make sure all Missourians are protected. I want to make sure there is enough money in there to help with problem compulsive gambling.”

Hoskins a self-proclaimed ‘obstructionist’ against sports betting

After failed efforts to legalize Missouri sports betting in the last three legislative sessions, a coalition representing Missouri’s professional sports teams decided to begin a petition drive to bypass lawmakers and get the sports betting question in front of voters in November. The group collecting signatures, Winning for Missouri Education, says it already collected more than the required 180,00 signatures from registered Missouri voters to get a referendum on the ballot.

Hoskins has been the main reason why no sports betting bill has passed the General Assembly. He insists that legalizing video lottery terminals (VLTs) must be a part of any sports betting legislation. He has twice used a filibuster to halt sports betting measures in the Senate after the House passed them.

Hoskins looks to do the same this year with just over a month to go in this year’s legislative session.

“I’ll be an obstructionist until I get my way.”

There’s not much support to legalize VLTs in Missouri. The slots-like machines can be found in stores and bars across the state. Missouri’s casinos view them as competition, while most lawmakers do not want VLTs tied to sports betting legislation.

Hoskins dismissive on sports betting tax estimates

Hoskins told reporters that his bill, which would legalize VLTs, would provide $30 million for homes and cemeteries for military veterans. He says that’s something the sports betting initiative does not include.

“There’s a lot of misinformation going on out there, but most certainly, it’s their prerogative to put that on the ballot, and if they gather enough signatures, we’ll see what Missourians say.”

Some of that misinformation, according to Hoskins, is the amount of tax dollars sports betting would bring into Missouri.

“I’ve also heard a misnomer that veterans and our school districts are missing out on millions of dollars, since we have not legalized sports betting. That is simply untrue. In fact, some estimates say that, as far as taxes go with all the additional business deductions, the low fees and low tax rate, that Missouri will actually receive zero dollars going toward education.”

Under the ballot initiative, sports betting revenue would be taxed at 10%. Winning for Missouri Education believes the industry would ultimately generate tens of millions for the state’s educational services. Hoskins has said Missouri is missing out on $250 million in potential revenue from legal VLTs.

Hoskins blames casinos for failure of lawmakers to pass sports betting

The ballot initiative has gained a lot of support. Missouri’s professional sports teams advocated for legal sports betting, pushing the signature effort. For instance, before the Kansas City Royals’ opening day game, stations were set up for fans to sign the petition.

Additionally, DraftKings chipped in $500,000 to Winning for Missouri Education in March. The operator has donated a total of $1.25 million to the organization to date. That came after FanDuel gave the group $1.75 million in January.

Hoskins still thinks tax revenue will not go to the programs in Missouri that really need it.

“This is definitely a golden ticket for all the casinos and professional sports teams.

Hoskins blames casinos for pressuring lawmakers to kill his VLT legislation.

“I think a legislative plan would be better, but we’ve gone down that road, and unfortunately, the casinos kill any sort of compromise that we try and come up with.”

Photo by AP Photo / David A. Lieb
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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa, with experience covering online sports betting and gambling across Catena Media. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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