Showdown In The “Show Me” State: Sports Betting And VLTs Vie For Approval

Written By Marian Rosin on March 14, 2022
VLT advocates and Missouri sports betting advocates fight for legislation

Ladies and gentlemen…

In this corner, currently being debated in the House, we have Missouri sports betting.

And in this corner, with a study showing greater economic benefits to the state… video lottery terminals.

Supporters behind potential legalization of the two activities are squaring off against each other in the Missouri legislature. With a recent study finding that video lotteries could bring in 10 times as much revenue as legal sports betting in Missouri.

As a bonus, they might push out of the state legally contested, untaxed and unregulated “pre-reveal” machines. Also known as “gray market” and “no chance” machines.

Current estimates put the number of those machines in Missouri at 14,000 to 20,000.

Casinos, though, worry that VLT expansion would hurt their business, according to Bill DeWitt III, the president of the St. Louis Cardinals. And VLTs don’t have a fanbase in anti-gambling groups, either.

According to the Missouri Independent, Missouri sports betting promoters don’t want it tied to the passage of video lottery gaming:

“Supporters of video lottery are doing everything they can to kill the sports wagering bill.”

The one thing advocates for both seem to agree on is that Missouri loses revenue, some of it to other states like Illinois, through the lack of legal options here at home.

The joint proposal makes like an amoeba and splits

Previously, Sen. Denny Hoskins attempted to pass a Senate bill that combined the legalization of sports betting with VLTs. At the time Hoskins said:

“Sports wagering is already happening. We might as well legalize it. That’s my argument for video lottery terminals, as well.”

Now each activity is being promoted separately, with a hearing for sports betting bills going first. That resulted in a vote delayed until Mar. 9 so issues like funding for problem gambling help and pre-tax caps on casino profit deductions could be resolved.

Some VLT supporters saw some of the provisions as they stood then as favoring casinos and the state’s professional sports teams who back the proposal.

By the numbers

A “Gaming Market & Economic Impact Study” that was commissioned by the  Missouri Coalition for Video Lottery and paid for by aspiring game vendors found that almost all incremental taxes would come from VLTs and not sports betting if both were legalized. 

The report prepared by Morowitz Gaming Advisors LLC and Global Gaming & Hospitality Capital Advisors LLC also put forth that legalized VLTs would net an estimated $1.1 billion in public revenue in its first five years.

That’s versus less than $100 million over five years brought in by sports betting. A figure put forth by VLT supporters in a recent hearing of the House Special Committee on Public Policy.

Side by side: MO sports betting v. VLT

Proposed Missouri sports betting legislation backed by casinos and the state’s pro teams would let each of the state’s 13 casinos offer sports betting, including college sports but not high school sports.

Bets could happen at the teams’ stadiums via operating partners as well as onsite at the casinos who would pay a 10% tax rate on adjusted gross sports gaming revenue. The tax rate on other casino gambling revenue is 21%.

Ninety percent of that would go to state education with the remaining 10% to casino host cities.

Each casino could get three sports betting skins, at a maximum of six per casino company. Sports teams would get one mobile skin each; they could also host a sports betting lounge at their facilities.

Regulation would come from the Missouri Gaming Commission.

On the other side, game vendor lobbyist Andy Arnold called the sports betting bill:

“A big money grab for the professional sports teams, casinos, and the sports operators.”

And VLT supporters argue that profit would go only to the casinos, not to their communities.

VLT proponents advocate that their machines would produce the most revenue for state education programs. 32% of net VLT revenue would go to those programs and 4% to local governments.

Common ground

Both sides see the activities they’re trying to legalize as far superior to any unlawful alternatives.

“We consider full VLTs to be far more attractive than these ‘no chance’ machines.”

And Rep. Phil Christofanelli (R-St. Peters) addressed the loss of revenue from sports bets placed illegally by Missouri sports bettors:

I think many of you know and are aware of the fact that sports betting is occurring with impunity across the state of Missouri and it happens largely on unlicensed and unregulated apps.” 

Photo by BortN66 /
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Marian Rosin

Marian Rosin is a freelance writer that has written on a variety of topics including publications like Upnest and Psychology Today. Marian brings experience in the gambling sector as the senior copywriter for Isle of Capri casinos.

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