The Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee heard testimony on two sports betting bills and a VLT-only bill this week. There was a clear divide in the meeting. Sports teams and organizations favor legal sports betting, while some businesses are rallying for VLTs to become legal to help increase revenue.
Sen. Karla May introduced SB 192 as a standalone piece of legislation for the legalization of VLTs in all establishments across Missouri. It could represent a way for sports betting bills to move forward without including VLTs in the debate.
Sides drawn on including VLTs in sports betting legislation
Efforts to legalize Missouri sports betting have all failed in the past. Missouri lawmakers are under the gun to legalize sports betting this session after Kansas made wagering on sports legal there in 2022.
Last year, Sen. Denny Hoskins was able to kill sports betting legislation with a filibuster in the Senate after the House passed a sports wagering bill. He says he will do it again if the legalization of VLTs isn’t part of legalizing sports betting in the state.
At the committee hearing, the Sports Betting Alliance (SBA), which represents several major sportsbooks, touched on the fact that including VLTs in legislation alongside sports betting could significantly lower the chances that any bill is passed.
Specifics of SB 192
May’s bill would establish the Missouri Video Lottery Control Act. As outlined in SB 192’s summary, the purpose of this act is to “implement a system of video lottery game terminals and to issue licenses to video lottery game manufacturers, distributors, operators, handlers and retailers.”
Terminals could go in truck stops, liquor stores, bars and restaurants, as well as fraternal and veterans’ organizations.
All VLTs would connect to a central computer system overseen by the Missouri State Lottery Commission. Winning tickets would be paid through a terminal connected to a similar system.
Betting credits would be 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents and 25 cents, with a maximum wager set at $5. The maximum amount paid out would be $1,000.
Tax revenue for the state would be set at 36% under SB 192, with net proceeds going to public education. It could range from “public elementary and secondary education and public institutions of higher education, with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and workforce development programs,” according to wording in the bill.
Is SB 192 likely to pass in Missouri?
While there are arguments in favor of passing legislation on VLTs, the committee voted earlier on Feb. 23. The results told a clear story.
The standalone sports betting bill, SB 30, sponsored by Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, passed with a vote of 11-1. Hoskins’ SB 1 that combines both sports betting and VLT legalization failed 2-10. The committee has not had a vote on SB 192 yet.
On top of this, casinos in Missouri are strongly against making VLTs legal because they say it would cut into their profits.
Hoskins told PlayUSA that “the Missouri Republican Party supports prohibiting the further expansion of gambling beyond that already authorized.
“In my opinion, video lottery terminals are not a current expansion and would actually be a reduction. But sportsbook is definitely a further expansion of gambling, there’s no ifs, ands or buts around that.”
With this statement, Hoskins seems to be using sports betting legislation to further his mission to legalize VLTs. It’s not clear whether a standalone VLT bill will get the support it needs to pass given the results on the committee’s vote on SB 1. Hoskins said those supporting sports betting legislation are hypocrites.
“They want to get rid of the illegal sports betting by legalizing it, but they don’t want to get rid of the unregulated video lottery terminals by legalizing video lottery terminals. I mean, it’s hilarious sometimes when they make that argument.”