Missouri sports betting hopes shift to 2023

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A recent hearing on Missouri sports betting legislation increasingly seems like it will be the last major legalization push this calendar year as lawmakers turn their attention to the 2023 session.

Missouri sports betting proponents acknowledged legalizing sports betting in the current legislative special session was a long shot even before last week’s hearing. Legislators are now reportedly turning all efforts toward passing a bill during next year’s regular legislative session.

House and Senate leaders said last week they backed the legalization efforts but aren’t anticipating any action this year, according to the St. Louis Fox affiliate. Senate Minority Leader  John Rizzo, as well as incoming House Speaker Dean Plocher, told the outlet they plan to make sports betting a priority next session, indirectly acknowledging it wouldn’t come in 2023.

Missouri lawmakers are back in Jefferson City for a special session called by Gov. Mike Parson to find ways to cut taxes. Sports betting advocates argued during last week’s hearing that revenue from legal sports betting could allow cuts elsewhere, but Parson’s administration has said that action doesn’t fall under the parameters of the special session.

As of Monday there were no further discussions on the sports betting bills scheduled in the legislature.

The legislature failed to pass a sports betting bill during the 2022 regular session, which permits far more legislative activity. After a bill passed with widespread bipartisan support in the House, it stalled in the Senate.

Sports betting proponents have tried for years to bring legal wagering to the Show Me State. Though the 2022 bill advanced further than similar proposals in earlier sessions, it still couldn’t overcome opposition in the upper chamber.

Even before the Supreme Court struck down the federal wagering ban in 2018, allowing individual states to legalize sports betting, Missouri has tried to find legislative solutions to unregulated “grey” video gaming terminals that are in hundreds of truck stops throughout the state and function similarly to slot machines. Lawmakers have not reached consensus on banning these machines, regulating them or finding some other solution.

Missouri casinos have, not surprisingly, opposed the machines and have pulled support for any gaming bill that permits them in the state. Tieing sports betting into the video gaming terminals has helped politically killed both efforts.

Sports betting proponents believe next year sports betting, at the very least, could get over the hump.

More than 30 states now have some sort of legal wagering, including Kansas earlier this year. Missouri residents in both the Kansas City and St. Louis metro areas, far and away the state’s two largest population centers, now have relatively quick access to placing bets in other states.

Other Missouri neighbors Tennessee, Iowa and Arkansas also all have statewide mobile wagering. Missouri residents crossing state lines to place bets has cost the state millions of dollars in lost tax revenue annually.

The issue about unregulated gaming terminals will remain when lawmakers return to Jefferson City next year, but the political pressure to take action on sports betting is clearly growing. By hosting a hearing dedicated to legalizing sports betting – even one that couldn’t result in any concrete action – is another indicator Missouri lawmakers are serious about finally permitting residents to place bets.

About the author

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Ryan Butler

Ryan is a veteran sports betting and iGaming regulation and breaking news journalist based in the US. A two-time Associated Press Sports Editors award winner, he has reported on sports and politics since 2012. He has covered the gaming industry since 2018. Ryan graduated from the University of Florida with a major in Journalism and a minor in Sport Management.

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