The (snow)ball is officially rolling. Another measure on sports betting has been pre-filed in the Missouri Senate.
Can Missouri Senate lawmakers compromise on sports betting?
It’s difficult to be optimistic that legal Missouri sports betting will come to life in 2023. Efforts to bring sports wagering to The Show Me State have failed for five years. There is hope, however, that lawmakers will get it done in the coming session.
Legislators will have at least two measures on sports betting to consider. Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer has joined Sen. Denny Hoskins in pre-filing legislation. While this second pre-filing by a Missouri senator is a positive indicator of enthusiasm to get sports betting onto Gov. Mike Parson’s desk, it also brings flashbacks of sports betting’s ultimate failure to pass in 2022.
On a first read-through, Luetkemeyer’s bill doesn’t seem to differ significantly from Hoskins’. In fact, they seem to agree on a lot of key aspects. It’s the small details, however, that could doom sports betting in Missouri yet again. The Senate, which it failed to do in 2022, will have to find a way to compromise.
Competing bills agree on tax rate
First and foremost — and perhaps the most promising takeaway so far — is that these two senators representing districts around the sporting hub Kansas City agree on the same tax rate: 10%.
The tax rate of sports betting has led to a stark divide in the Missouri General Assembly this past year. Hoskins and the House, who managed to pass sports betting legislation with bipartisan support, could not find common ground on a tax rate.
Hoskins’ pre-filed bill shows both his willingness to compromise as well as his urgency to get this done. The future of multiple Missouri pro sports teams is in question. Hoskins previously proposed a tax rate that mirrored the rate of other forms of gambling in the state, at 21%. That was a stark contrast to the 8% sought by Rep. Dan Houx, who championed some of the House’s bills.
In a recent special session regarding tax cuts in Jefferson City, Houx raised the topic of sports betting yet again with House Bill 4. Much like all the others before it, however, this attempt was also unsuccessful. Houx then sought to find a compromise, raising the tax rate in his legislation to 10%.
Certainly, Hoskins has made the biggest sacrifice as of now, decreasing his tax rate by double digits. That alone indicates that a compromise can be found. Luetkemeyer’s proposed 10% tax rate further indicates a potential consensus among the Legislature.
Bills find common ground on multiple issues
Fortunately, that’s not all the two senators found common ground on. They both depict nearly identical restrictions on where, and through whom, sports bets can be placed. Both detail the primary roles Missouri’s gambling boats and major sporting facilities will play in sports bettings’ operation.
Hoskins and Luetkemeyer are also on the same page about application fees and license renewal rates for sports wagering operators.
Additionally, they both seek to give sports teams some control over betting platforms. Moreover, both seek to protect minors and other vulnerable persons from sports betting.
Hoskins proposes new revenue stream in place of higher tax rate
If there’s one thing that could keep these two bills from gaining ground, however, it will be their differences.
For instance, Hoskins seeks to charge gambling boats significantly more than Luetkemeyer for their access to sport betting platforms. Hoskins likely sees this as a way to recoup state income forfeited due to a lower tax rate.
Luetkemeyer, on the other hand, seeks to allow up to three individually branded interactive sports wagering platforms per gambling boat. His bill doesn’t mention or specify how much it would cost them.
Hoskins, meanwhile, wants to allow gambling boats only two interactive sports wagering platforms. His measure would charge them $250,000 for the first one and $500,000 for the second one. The money would be paid as administrative fees to the Missouri Gaming Commission.
While $750,000 might seem like a drop in the bucket compared to Missouri casinos’ general revenues – and what the casinos are likely to rake in from sports betting – if Luetkemeyer has a cheaper proposal, then the gambling boats of Missouri might have their champion.
Additionally, provisions regarding compulsive gambling could be a contributing factor to each proposal’s success. Luetkemeyer wants to allocate $500,000 from the Gaming Commission Fund to the Compulsive Gamblers Fund. Hoskins suggests that number be $5 million.
Path to Missouri legalization could be bumpy
These two likely won’t be the last bills proposed by Missouri legislators to legalize sports betting. Houx is likely to put forth his own proposal yet again. Thankfully in the Senate at least, Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden and Minority Leader John Rizzo have expressed that legalizing sports wagering is a priority for them.
While it may be a bumpy ride, sports betting has a clear path to legalization in Missouri in 2023.
Despite their differences, the pre-filings put forth by Luetkemeyer and Hoskins should provide hope.
These efforts set Missouri up for success in 2023, if nothing else.