Just a week ago, any legalization of Missouri sports betting this year looked like a lost cause. However, the Missouri House has put forth a final, last-ditch effort to get it done before the end of the 2023 legislative session.
Language was added to SB 92 that would bring sports betting to the Show-Me State. That bill passed the House earlier this week, in an 83-65 vote.
What happened to SB 92?
SB 92’s initial purpose was to modify provisions related to tax credits, and is formally called the Intern and Apprentice Recruitment Act. It authorizes a $1,500 income tax credit for taxpayers who hire an intern or apprentice.
The new language in this bill was added by Rep. Dan Houx. It legalizes Missouri sports betting at in-state casinos and through online sportsbooks that partner with casino companies and professional sports teams. Houx’s sports betting bill overwhelmingly passed the House earlier this year but has stalled in the Senate.
“This is just an opportunity to place this on another bill,” Houx said, in an interview with The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Tuesday. “I know it’s not going to make everybody happy.”
What happens to the new MO sports betting legislation now?
SB 92 now heads back to the Missouri Senate, where it initially started. Despite that, it’s far from a lock to pass out of that chamber.
The bill was initially authored by Sen. Denny Hoskins, a vocal opponent of recent Missouri sports betting bills. He’s led a pair of filibusters against those efforts, including one just last month.
Sen. Hoskins has tried to lump video lottery terminals (VLTs) into sports betting legislation that comes to his chamber. By contrast, many of his fellow lawmakers believe VLTs and sports betting should be treated as separate issues.
Hoskins pulled no punches when the Post-Dispatch asked about the developments on Tuesday:
“The bill that the House passed is definitely not a slam dunk. The House put a lot of love into the bill and they might have loved it to death.”
Time is of the essence
This year’s legislative session concludes on Friday, May 12. Any bills not passed by that point will need to go through the process again when legislators reconvene in 2024.
Missouri sports betting has been here before. Last year, a bill passed the House but didn’t get out of the Senate. This process has angered politicians and pro sports teams alike, and that frustration has been vocalized in the media.
The St. Louis Cardinals have expressed interest in backing a ballot measure ahead of the 2024 election. In another Post-Dispatch interview, President Bill DeWitt III said most of the state would back such an effort:
“I think there are a few things we may push on here at the end. We’re just so frustrated. It’s working against our fans and our citizens who overwhelmingly support it.”
Sports betting has bipartisan support in both chambers. A number of leaders have gone on the record stating their annoyance with the process.
“I’m ready to get sports betting done,” Senate President Caleb Rowden, a Republican, said. “I don’t think this is a partisan issue. We’ve just kind of been spinning our wheels.”
Among those who agree is Sen. Karla May, a Democrat who represents St. Louis:
“I’ve been down this road before. I’m OK with sports betting. I think we should have it. The problem is the Legislature is so stubborn and so controlled by special interests.”