It was just one year ago that sports betting became legal in Kansas. During the first month of operation, reporting from KSN.com estimated that 6-7% of the $160.5 million in total bets came from Missouri residents … which would equate to about $115 million in total bets over the course of a full year.
According to the Kansas Racing & Gaming Commission, sportsbooks had $1.5 billion in bets in the first year of legalized sports betting. The state collected $5.8 million in taxes. Nearly $4 million of that is funding an effort to attract a pro sports team to Kansas. If the original projections held, $90 to $105 million came in from Missouri.
Further evidence of Missourians contributing to the sports betting in Kansas is shown by the attempted bets that have been blocked through online apps. Thousands of Missourians tried to place wagers on Week 1 of this NFL season, for instance.
Millions of dollars are flowing into neighboring states
Legal Missouri sports betting came closer last legislative session than at any time before. Regrettably, the result remained the same. Even worse, the same obstacles that have blocked sports betting legalization in The Show Me State are still in place.
Missouri’s most-populated cities are just a few miles from legal sports betting. Because of that, failed efforts to legalize sports betting actually hurt the Missouri economy more than Missourians themselves. To place a wager, Missouri residents need only cross a state line.
Betting on a mobile device through a sportsbook is done with a credit card or bank account. At a physical location, bettors can pay with cash and receive a paper slip with the wager documents.
Missouri almost completely surrounded by sports betting states
On Missouri’s eastern-central border sits St. Louis and the several cities making up its metro area.
Just a short drive over the Mississippi River and sports betting instantly becomes legal. Illinois legalized sports wagering in June 2019, with the first retail sports betting location opening in March 2020. The Casino Queen in East St. Louis, IL, opened in August 2020. It has a DraftKings sportsbook.
Missourians in the southeast corner of the state recently gained access to sports betting a little closer to home. Kentucky launched in-person sports betting Sept. 7, with online sports betting set to go live Sept. 28. Missouri shares its entire northern border with Iowa, which was one of the first states to legalize sports betting after the US Supreme Court decision.
Anyone living along Missouri’s southern border merely has to cross into Arkansas to place a sports wager. And, of course, Missourians living on the west side of the state can now cross into Kansas to make a sports bet. In fact, other than small portions of Oklahoma, Tennessee and Nebraska, bordering states with legal sportsbooks completely surround Missouri.
Add it all up, and that’s a lot of money being driven across Missouri state lines and dumped into a neighboring state. Money that could, and should, be used to make Missouri better. Not Kansas, not Kentucky, not Illinois, not Nebraska, not Arkansas, not Iowa
Best chance for sports betting could be a MO ballot referendum
Even though Missouri sports bettors are willing to make the short drive across state lines, most would probably prefer to see their wagers made in their home state. Legalization doesn’t look like it will happen at the Missouri capitol. Until the legality of video lottery terminals (VLTs) is settled, legal sports betting remains in limbo.
From an attorney general who refuses to offer an opinion on the slots-like machines found in bars and gas stations across Missouri, to a legislator who can single-handedly block sports betting over said VLTs, not to mention casinos that are vehemently opposed to legalizing VLTs, sports betting doesn’t stand a chance in Jefferson City.
Professional sports teams in Missouri have come together to find a way through the muck. They are working to get a referendum on the 2023 ballot, so voters can decide the issue. It remains to be seen if they can get it done.
Sports betting is legal in 35 states. Many of them border The Show Me State. Their state governments should each send “thank you” cards to Missouri for continuing to fill their coffers.