VLTs Need To Be Included In MO Sports Betting Debate, Senator Says

Written By C.J. Pierre on January 31, 2024 - Last Updated on February 2, 2024
A picture of Missouri state senator Denny Hoskins.

Missouri sports bettors should be more optimistic in 2024 than in any previous year.

There are several different attempts to legalize Missouri sports betting. There is a ballot initiative trying to put the issue in the hands of the voters and three bills in the Missouri Legislature.

Sen. Denny Hoskins is behind one of those pushes. He is proposing a bill that not only would make Missouri sports betting legal but also change the state’s legal status of video lottery terminals.

Hoskins’ desire to legalize VLTs was a key reason that 2023 sports betting efforts failed.

Hoskins says not having VLTs is costing the state millions of dollars

There are two competing Missouri sports betting bills in the Senate. There are only slight differences between them.

Sen. Hoskins is the author of Senate Bill 824. Meanwhile, Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer is pushing for SB 852, which would legalize sports betting in Missouri and tax bets at 10%. Additionally, Rep. Dan Houx submitted HB 2331 in the lower chamber.

However, there is also a sports betting ballot initiative being backed by Missouri’s pro sports teams that is currently collecting signatures in hopes of getting sports betting on the ballot in November for voters to decide on.

All four proposals would legalize online and retail sports betting at the state’s riverboat casinos. However, only Hoskins’ SB 824 would legalize VLTs. These electronic gaming machines offer various games like slots and are usually located in restaurants, bars, and other public spaces like convenience stores and grocery stores.

Hoskins says without VLTs, Missouri is missing out on $250 million of potential revenue for the state. He also says the 13 Missouri casinos don’t want to see VLTs become a reality.

“The casinos do not want to legalize the video lottery terminals. They see it as competition,” Sen Hoskins told Lineups.com, a sister site of PlayMissouri. “So they do not want to legalize these gray market machines or regulate these gray market machines. They have been the biggest opponent to legalizing the video lottery terminals and that’s just really unfortunate.

Some lawmakers say that sports betting and VLTs should be considered separately. However, Hoskins says any sports betting legislation must include the legalization of VLTs.

“I’ve always said that I believe that we should have one discussion on gaming, in general, with sportsbooks, as well as legalization of sportsbooks, as well as the regulation of these video lottery terminals,” Hoskins said. “I think in Missouri, we’ve just seen a proliferation of gray market machines, video lottery terminal machines, in truck stops, convenience stores, bars, taverns, fraternal organizations.”

Hoskins’ proposal would have VLTs taxed at 32%

There are various reasons for opposition to VLTs, ranging from accessibility concerns to a lack of supervision. Because Missouri casinos will likely be a massive roadblock on the path toward legalizing VLTs on their own, passing sports betting legislation serves as the best avenue for Hoskins and other VLT proponents to take.

Hoskins says there are 20,000 unregulated VLT machines throughout the state. His proposal would replace the unregulated units with regulated ones that would be taxed at 32%. He says that money can go towards areas of need, like funding for the state’s veterans.

“About $30 million of that we could use to help fund our veterans homes and cemeteries,” Hoskins said. “In order to use that money for veterans, we have to have video lottery terminals.”

According to the Missouri Constitution, all tax revenue generated from gaming in the state is required to go towards education. However, there are fees, such as license application fees, that can go towards other places.

“If we legalize video lottery terminals and use some of the fees from video lottery terminals, that would help us make up that difference of $50 million,” Hoskins said. “I want to make sure that we have a dedicated funding source for veterans homes and cemeteries. And the only way to do that is to legalize video lottery terminals in the state of Missouri.”

SB824 has been referred to the Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee. If Hoskins’ bill were to pass, funding for the veterans home program would no longer need to come from the state’s general fund.

Photo by AP Photo / Summer Ballentine
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C.J. Pierre

C.J. Pierre is a Lead Writer at PlayMissouri. He has been covering news and sports for over a decade for both online and TV broadcasts. He was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN and is an alum of Minnesota State University: Moorhead. He recently dove into tribal casino, sports betting and online gambling news. He also covered the launch of sports betting in Arizona. C.J. has experience as a reporter and videographer and has covered high school, college and professional sports throughout his career, most notably following Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Vikings and North Dakota State University football.

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