The spread of sports betting across the US has been remarkable, but progress has been slow, particularly in some of the Midwest and West states, where the picture is patchy.
Sports betting is legal in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and South Dakota, but not in North Dakota, Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Idaho. Missouri is another state in this part of the world that doesn’t yet offer sports betting to residents, and within the last month, there was more bad news for sports betting fans in the state.
On May 13th, the state’s legislative session came to an end without agreement on legalization, the fourth time that the measure has fallen short in Missouri.
The most recent effort kicked off last summer when Penn National Gaming Vice President Jeff Morris gathered stakeholders from casinos and professional sports clubs in an effort to strike an agreement and introduce a legal wagering framework into the legislature. He was successful in brokering a deal that would have permitted statewide mobile gaming through digital platforms linked to existing casinos and professional sports venues.
The committee came to an agreement on a tax rate, wagering options, entertainment zones around stadiums, and other critical factors. It then took its plan to Jefferson City, where it was passed by the House in March with a few tweaks.
The Senate, on the other hand, was a different matter. Senator Denny Hoskins has long stated that any legalized sports betting plan must go through his office. Hoskins has introduced a sports betting measure in each of the last four legislative sessions, with each proposing the legalization of video gaming terminals (VGTs). All four of these bills had failed.
Hoskins filibustered on the Senate floor this year to kill the original bill, instead favoring his own proposals, which contained the legalization of VGTs. After the House-passed legislation was stopped by the filibuster, Hoskins agreed to remove VGTs from his plan and construct new language that could have enabled sports betting, but the result was that neither bill advanced.
Ultimately, the insistence by Hoskins and others in the Senate that VGTs had to be included in the bill led to its failure, despite an attempt by some politicians to salvage the deal.
Second time unlucky
Hoskins, who claimed to have reached an agreement with Rep. Dan Houx, introduced his updated version of the measure to the Senate floor on April 4th, and the ensuing debate made it evident that the matter would not be resolved.
Hoskins eventually withdrew the bill from the floor, and stakeholders claim they worked all weekend to find a compromise. Hoskins proposed a 15% tax rate, a $1.25m yearly fee per skin or platform, three skins per casino corporation (capped at six) and one skin for each professional sports club. However, industry sources said the $1.25m annual cost was a deal killer, despite the fact that the tax rate was a compromise, and the number of skins reflected a previous measure.
An application price in most mid-sized states can be in the millions of dollars, although renewals are usually less expensive. For organization or owner’s license fees, the state of Illinois, for example, imposes a one-time application price of up to $5m, with a renewal fee of $1m.
According to sources, Hoskins returned with a lower annual fee of $750,000 and language that would have allowed sports betting to remain operational for two years before sunsetting if it didn’t meet lawmakers’ expectations. However, none of the recommendations were adopted, and the session ended with no action, leaving stakeholders and legislators disappointed.
One of the consultants involved in preparing the original bill said that they were disappointed that the legislation, which would have brought economic benefits and consumer protections to Missourians, did not go through. Others pointed to the fact that neighboring states such as Kansas now offer sports betting, leaving Missouri essentially isolated, and Missourians faced with the choice of traveling out of state to bet or risking their money with unregulated sites.
Five of Missouri’s immediate neighbors, Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska and Tennessee, offer legalized wagering. In addition, Arkansas, Illinois and Tennessee offer mobile sports betting and Kansas is set to launch their mobile sports betting sector by the beginning of 2023.
It seems likely that another legislative push will begin later this summer, and Missouri sports betting fans and industry insiders will be hoping that this time, the politicians can get their act together.