Missouri Senator: Sports Betting “Unlikely” in 2024

Written By Adam Hensley on March 22, 2024
A picture of a magic 8 ball for a story about a Missouri senator said sports betting is unlikely to get through the legislature in 2024

Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, who authored a bill on the subject, believes the Missouri legislature won’t legalize sports betting in 2024.

However, he thinks Missouri sports betting is certainly possible next year.

In an interview with STLPR, Luetkemeyer said he filed his bill “to keep the conversation going.”

“I would say every male age 21-45, this is their number one issue.”

Unfortunately for those looking to bet on sports, Luetkemeyer doesn’t believe that will be a reality this year due to video lottery terminal (VLT) advocates.

Here’s a closer look at why Luetkemeyer believes sports betting legalization this year isn’t likely and what’s next going forward.

Sports betting in 2024 ‘seems unlikely’ due to VLT conversations

Historically, lawmakers coupled the concept of sports betting in Missouri with VLTs. And even this year, the conversation seemed to stall more sports betting talks.

“(Legal sports betting in) this session seems unlikely,” Luetemeyer said. “I’ve had at least one of my senate colleagues who’s very passionate about the video lottery terminal expansion.”

Sen. Denny Hoskins has been the biggest proponent of VLTs’ inclusion with sports betting. About a year ago, he completed an eight-hour filibuster to block a sports betting bill. The reason? The bill would not have legalized VLTs.

“I’ll be an obstructionist until I get my way,” Hoskins said in 2023.

VLTs currently fall under a gray area in Missouri. They aren’t regulated, but at the same time, there is no specific statute banning them.

But the push on VLTs may not be as strong moving forward.

Hoskins departure may open doors for sports wagering in Missouri

Hoskins’ time in the Missouri senate will be coming to an end. Missouri senators are limited to two four-year terms. Hoskins started in the senate in 2016 and is about to wrap up his second term.

STLPR reporter Sarah Kellogg bluntly asked Luetkemeyer if it’s just a matter of waiting out Hoskins.

“My belief is, and I could be proven wrong on this next session, that the people who are supportive of (VLTs), will want to try and attach it to the bill but won’t go the next further step, which is if they cannot attach a VLT amendment to a clean sports wagering bill, they won’t stand up and kill the underlying legislation,” Luetkemeyer said. “And that’s the difference in where we are right now.”

Ultimately, Luutkemeyer believes that the Senate’s goal for passing sports betting legislation does not include any other attachments.

“I think the will of the Senate is to pass a clean sports wagering bill but not to attach to it any of this expansion or legalization of video lottery terminals.”

With Hoskins out next session, the concept seems more likely than ever.

“I remain optimistic that if we come back next session and we have a new Senate — or a different looking Senate than we do right now — we can pass a clean sports wagering bill.”

Could VLTs stall future sports betting talks in 2025?

Luetkemeyer doesn’t believe it’s likely, but there’s always a chance another voice picks up Hoskins’ fight.

Right now, that figure appears to be Rep. Crystal Quade. Last month, she introduced HB 2835. The bill would legalize both sports betting and VLTs.

“Caught up in the Republican infighting has also been the illegal video lottery machines popping up in every corner of our state. We need to regulate them,” Quade told PlayMissouri. “Along with regulation comes a chance to help bring money for law enforcement, our veterans, and our severely underfunded public schools.”

Quade told PlayMissouri that she’s tired of seeing Missouri residents cross into neighboring states to place sports wagers. And that’s the same thing Luetkemeyer told STLPR.

“The effect of that is we are losing tax revenue, that Missouri has earmarked for education because gaming money has to go to schools,” he said.

How does the conversation affect the ballot initiative?

At this point, it appears the Missouri Sports Betting Alliance is the biggest advocate for sports betting in the Show Me State. It’s not surprising, given the group’s title. But it’s composed of representatives from the state’s six professional sports teams.

To add sports betting to the November ballot, the group needs to secure 170,000 signatures by May. In 2022, a similar initiative did not garner the total amount of signatures needed.

And right now, with legal sports betting talks stalling in the Senate, this appears to be the only open path to sports betting, albeit not a sure thing by any means.

“I understand where they’re coming from,” Luetkemeyer said. “And I’ve had conversations with some of the owners of the professional sports franchises in Missouri and understand their position on this. The ballot measure they proposed has some small modifications relative to what my bill looks like, but it largely tracks what my legisation does. If they want to go the initiative petition route to try and get it done because they’re not able to get something through the general assembly, I suppose I don’t have any issues with that.”

However, support remains a big issue for the alliance. Luetkemeyer said It’s anything but a shoo-in.

“I don’t know that it’s one of those 80%, slam dunks that it will pass. It’s probably closer to a 50-50 proposition that it will pass. If it were something that were to get on the ballot, it’s passage or failure is probably going to have more to do with how much money is spent on advocacy on each side. It probably passes if there’s no opposition campaign. But if there is a stringent opposition campaign, then there is a real risk of it failing.”

Photo by PlayMissouri
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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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