Missouri casinos tried for the past four years to push for sports betting legalization in the legislature. Each year, the issue of video lottery terminals sunk the effort.
Now casinos are partnering with sports teams to try to break free from the VLT albatross.
Eleven of the 13 Missouri casinos reached an agreement with six sports teams on sports betting language to push jointly.
Eric Schippers, senior vice president of public affairs and government relations for Penn National Gaming, explained the pact to PlayMissouri:
“This is an effort between the teams and the casinos to try to split out what was just a kitchen-sink bill that included allowing VLTs in bars and taverns. That toppled the bill the last few years, so we wanted to work with the teams on a clean bill that just included sports betting. The teams are helping push for that clean approach.”
Casinos, sports teams take a page from Ohio playbook
In return for teams joining casinos in fighting for a standalone sports betting bill, casinos acknowledged that teams can have direct access to skins.
It’s similar to the compromise casinos made with sports teams in Ohio this year to get that state to the finish line. While they fought against it at first and may not have had a choice in the matter, Ohio casinos, including those run by Penn National Gaming, accepted sports team participation.
“So that was something that’s very new as well, the industry saying we’re willing to work together on a bill that provides direct access to the teams,” Schippers said.
Casinos also agreed to a mandate to use official league data for in-play wagers. However, Boyd Gaming, which has two casinos in Missouri, refused to agree to this term.
Teams and casino companies in the pact
With Boyd Gaming out, the other five casino groups representing 11 casinos joined with the teams. They include:
- Affinity Gaming (two casinos)
- Bally’s (one casino)
- Caesars Entertainment (three casinos)
- Century Casinos (two casinos)
- Penn National Gaming (three casinos)
The six sports teams working with the casinos are:
- Kansas City Chiefs (NFL)
- St. Louis Cardinals (MLB)
- Kansas City Royals (MLB)
- St. Louis Blues (NHL)
- St. Louis Soccer Club (MLS)
- Kansas City Current (National Women’s Soccer League)
Compromise Missouri sports betting language
Typically, companion bills get introduced with one in each chamber. The casinos and teams doubled up by getting two lawmakers in each chamber to introduce identical bills.
Sen. Dan Hegeman filed Senate Bill 1046 and Sen. Luetkemeyer submitted SB 1061. Each holds leadership positions in the Senate, with Hegeman the chairman and Luetkemeyer the whip of the majority caucus.
In the House, Rep. Dan Houx filed HB 2502. Rep. Phil Christofanelli already reintroduced previous language with HB 1666. But he is expected to amend the bill with substitute language. Both lawmakers have introduced sports betting bills in past years.
Key details in the casino/sports team compromise include:
- Retail sportsbooks to be allowed only at Missouri’s 13 riverboat casinos.
- Casinos get three online sportsbook skins each, with a maximum of six per casino company.
- The six sports teams may each offer one online sportsbook. Fans at the stadium can use any of the regulated mobile apps in the state.
- Casinos may not advertise within 400 yards of sports stadiums without team approval.
- Application fee of $100,000 for online licenses and $50,000 for retail licenses.
- Tax rate of 10%.
- Sportsbooks must use official league data on in-play wagers.
Video lottery terminal issue explained
Unregulated VLTs already exist across Missouri in taverns and truck stops around the state. An estimated 10,000 machines operate in the gray market.
Lawmakers either want to regulate and tax these machines or enforce a ban. Casinos don’t want the slot machine competition legitimized throughout the state.
In past years, casino opposition to VLTs put them against the sports betting effort that made it furthest at the end of the session.
That bill combines sports betting with regulating VLTs. Sen. Denny Hoskins reintroduced SB 906 for this session.
Last year, his sports betting bill was debated on the Senate floor. Missouri teams stayed on the sidelines on the VLT issue back then.
“Now the teams are working with us saying we’re not opposed to the VLT issue, but it shouldn’t bog down our bill,” Schippers said. “So this is the first time we have an aligned front with teams and casinos.”
Other Missouri sports wagering bills
Missouri now has nine bills filed related to sports betting. One of those, from Rep. Jim Murphy, also includes an online casino.
But the only ones that matter figure to be Hoskins’ VLT bill versus the casino/sports team option.
Sports betting bills in the Senate go through the Appropriations Committee. Hegeman chairs the committee, giving him a level of control over which bills the Senate prioritizes.
“The reality is the VLT issue is not going away,” Schippers said. “But it doesn’t need to Christmas tree our effort. We seem to have good momentum to detach VLTs. Hopefully, we can get this process moving.”