Illinois and Kansas may be benefiting from Missouri's hesitation to legalize sports wagering.
There are currently six bills in the Missouri Legislature that could legalize sports wagering in Missouri -- three in the House and three in the Senate.
In previous years, bills regarding sports wagering have passed in the Missouri House with bipartisan support. However, a bill in the 2022 legislative session did not pass in the Missouri Senate.
Legalized sports wagering has become more common in recent years: Illinois passed a law permitting sports wagering in June 2019 and Kansas passed a similar law in 2022. According to Forbes, there are 36 states that have made laws providing for sports wagering since 2018.
"In over half the country, legal online sports betting platforms are providing fans a safe and responsible way to place bets -- all while generating revenue for state and local priorities," said Nathan Click, a spokesman for the Sports Betting Alliance. "Right now, though, Missourians have to go across state lines to place bets or use illegal offshore sports betting websites. These illicit overseas enterprises offer no consumer protections and provide no benefit to Missouri communities."
Rep. Rudy Veit, a Republican from Jefferson City, expressed some personal reservations about legalizing a bill on sports gaming, but stressed that some kind of legislation still needed to be passed in Missouri.
"Some are driving across (state) lines," Veit said. "If it's going to be happening, we should have some control over who's doing it and how they're doing it. ... I personally am not a big fan of gambling. But that's more of a moral issue with me than a business issue."
In previous years, however, bills that would legalize sports gaming in Missouri have been struck down. Lawmakers and lobbyists have raised concerns in the past about trying to add on other issues to sports gaming, like changing regulations around video lottery terminals.
Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, creates the Honoring Missouri Veterans and Supporting Missouri Education Act, which primarily would modify video lottery provisions. Sports wagering is included as a provision of this bill.
Mike Winter, the president of the Missouri Gaming Association, testified against bills like SB 1 in 2022.
"If it was just a bill that only dealt with legalizing sports betting, we were supportive of those efforts," Winter said. "But I did testify in opposition to a sports betting bill which also had video lottery terminals included. ... I imagine I will testify again this session in opposition to those that have sports betting in VLTs (video lottery terminals) combined with testifying in support of those standalone sports betting bills."
The bill has been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Rep. Dave Griffith, a Jefferson City Republican, said he was against sports wagering being attached to larger bills like SB 1 in years prior. He said one of the reasons sports gaming hasn't been passed yet is it often being combined with video lottery.
Griffith filed his own bill, House Bill 953, that would also legalize sports wagering. The bill would use some of the fees for a "Steamboat Legacy Fund," a fund to keep the National Steamboat Museum active. The bill would also commission studies into the effect of gambling on the brain and how to treat it.
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry is supportive of standalone bills permitting sports gaming this year.
"It's really helpful to keep the fan base engaged for our teams and keep Missouri folks proud to be Missouri folks," said Phillip Arnzen, the chamber's legislative affairs director.
Griffith was also concerned about revenue that could be lost to residents going out of state to place bets on sports.
"When you've got constituents going across the border to place a bet, we're not serving them correctly," Griffith said. "We keep kicking the can, but we're going to have to find a way to make it happen."
Senate Bill 30 by Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, would also commission studies on the effects of sports wagering, among other stipulations for how tax money will be spent.
The bill would authorize sports wagering, including gambling on esports, by modifying the definition of a "game of skill." If passed, all sports wagering would be taxed at 10 percent and some of the proceeds would go to the Gaming Proceeds for Education Fund.
Under the bill, sports wagering must be done on an "excursion gambling boat" or over the internet, with the exception being "sports districts" or areas surrounding professional sports stadiums which may be designated by a team to conduct sports wagering.
The bill would also allow for programs to provide treatment for people struggling with compulsive gambling addictions. It would also allow at least $500,000 per year from the Gaming Commission Fund to go to the Compulsive Gamblers Fund.
The bill also would commission a study to be conducted every five years to investigate the impact of gaming.
Any person who owns more than 5 percent of a "sports governing body or its member teams" would be ineligible to place bets on sporting events. A sports governing body may also request that a game be banned from sports wagering, which can be granted if sports wagering operators see good cause for doing so.
Under the bill, any licensed applicant must apply and pay a $100,000 fee to the Missouri Gaming Commission to be authorized for facilitating sports wagering. Annual renewal fees for licenses could be up to $125,000.
The bill has been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee and is awaiting further discussion.
Senate Bill 279, proposed by Hoskins, would remove any language barring sports betting from existing laws outlining gaming and would include sports wagering in the definition of a "game of skill." It did not include any greater provisions for enforcement, taxing or funding other programs.
The bill is awaiting a second reading and has yet to be assigned to a committee.
House Bill 556, proposed by Rep. Dan Houx, R-Warrensburg, would also permit sports wagering as a "game of skill" and would develop a research report three times a year to study compulsive gambling. The bill is similar to bills from Luetkemeyer and Griffith.
Under the bill, adjusted gross receipts from licensed gambling games would not include receipts from sports wagering.
The bill has been referred to the House Emerging Issues Committee.
House Bill 581, sponsored by Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peters, is nearly identical to HB 556 and is also referred to the House Emerging Issues Committee. Neither has been set on the House calendar.
SB 1: Modifies provisions relating to gaming
Sponsor: Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg
SB 30: Authorizes sports wagering
Sponsor: Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville
SB 279: Modifies provisions related to gaming
Sponsor: Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg
HB 556: Modifies provisions related to gaming
Sponsor: Dan Houx, R-Warrensburg
HB 581: Modifies provisions related to gaming
Sponsor: Rep. Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peters
HB 953: Enacts provisions relating to sports wagering
Sponsor: Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City