New year, same result.
Missouri sports betting legislation failed to get through the Senate for the fifth straight year after the state session ended Friday without voting on the matter.
The result did not come due to a lack of effort from the House and Senate. At the end of the day, a familiar roadblock, Sen. Denny Hoskins, remained firmly in the way of reaching a resolution.
Hoskins has supported video lottery terminals for years, unsuccessfully attempting to get them legalized alongside sports betting in Missouri as recently as last month.
VLTs remained the MO sports betting wedge
For the last two years, the Missouri House has passed numerous sports betting legislation bills, only to see them all die in the Senate due to competing interests.
Hoskins attempted to amend a sports betting bill to legalize VLTs last year, claiming their proposed 36% tax rate would generate millions in additional tax revenue. Once the Senate shot it down, he filibustered through the remainder of the session to prevent a vote on the original bill.
Then, he resumed stride in 2023. When HB 556 and HB 581 passed through the House, SB 30 reached the Senate floor in April to legalize sports betting. Hoskins stalled the debate once again by reintroducing the VLT argument.
However, many state leaders believe VLTs and sports betting should remain separate. If legalized, VLTs would likely fall under the Missouri Lottery’s jurisdiction, whereas the Missouri Gaming Commission would regulate sports betting.
Ultimately, Senator Hoskins did not succeed with VLT legalization last month and took back to filibustering for the remainder of the session to prevent the rest of the Senate from voting.
Rep. Houx gets creative with SB 92
The outlook for legal sports betting in Missouri was bleak once SB 30 failed, but HB 556 author Rep. Dan Houx found another possible solution.
Houx amended SB 92, a bill authored by Hoskins that initially sought to modify tax credit provisions to include legalizing retail and online sports betting. The bill returned to the House for approval and passed with an 83-65 vote, putting the decision back in the Senate’s hands.
With the new bill, Hoskins faced a decision whether to pass or block his own bill. If he passed it, he would help millions of Missourians enjoy cuts on property taxes. However, passing the bill also meant he would lose the sports betting battle, which he was unwilling to do.
Impasse reached in the Missouri Senate
Friday’s session adjourned without a resolution on sports betting in Missouri. The session ended in gridlock, derailed by another filibuster by Sen. Bill Eigel that took part Thursday night and Friday morning.
While Eigel seemed to oppose sports betting, his personal property tax bill was also defeated earlier in the session. So, Eigel conducted a filibuster by reading Chapter 4 of Ronald Reagan’s biography (the first three chapters were read in session last month) and lecturing on the history of the B-52.
Eigel and Hoskins got what they wanted. Eigel said after the session:
“The theater of Jefferson City will go on long after we gavel out today. Nobody got into politics because they were intent on being nice.”
Other MO leaders speak out
Senate Majority Leader Cindy O’Laughlin was part of a vocal crowd that said Eigel and Hoskins acted selfishly, rather than in the best interests of the people and the government.
“People bring legislation to the floor that they cannot get passed and then, in retaliation for that, they hang up the business of the Senate for hour after hour after hour,” O’Laughlin said. “We’re not all running for governor. We just want to do the work of the Senate. We need cooperation from everyone to get that done.”
“I didn’t want to be here for this very reason,” Sen. Travis Fitzwater added, saying his colleagues who gummed up the session were “selfish. The people of Missouri deserve better.”
Fitzwater is in his first year as a senator after serving eight years as a state representative.
Senate President Caleb Rowden blamed the duo on Twitter, saying they needed “to take ownership of the fact they killed personal property tax cuts and sports betting in Missouri.”
Missouri sports betting: When, not if
Despite the Show-Me State’s recent sports betting tribulations, lawmakers and professional sports teams seem to believe its day will inevitably come.
St. Louis Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III spoke of leading a 2024 sports betting ballot initiative, meaning the issue could be voted on next year. Nonetheless, Hoskins remains an obstruction.
If 2024 doesn’t happen, Hoskins’ final term ends in January 2025. The roadblock will clear when that happens, and sports betting can move forward accordingly.