Missouri lawmakers revenew push for legal sports betting

Missouri legislators are pushing once again for the legalization of sports betting. After failing to cross the finish line last year, a new plan to regulate the activity in the Show Me State is back in front of lawmakers. House Bill 556 would permit wagering to those over 21, using both mobile and retail options. It would also impose a 10% tax rate on sports bets 

Missouri’s failure to legalize sports betting in 2022 has been read as a major defeat by proponents, especially given neighboring Kansas succeeded in launching its own market. Representatives from the St. Louis Cardinals, the National Hockey League and other sports clubs urged a panel of Missouri lawmakers Wednesday to find a path forward.

“We are literally surrounded by folks who can participate in this industry,” said Rep. Ashley Aune, D-Kansas City, as reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We want to get this done,” added Rep. Dan Houx, R-Warrensburg, who is sponsoring a legalization proposal.

The House Emerging Issues Committee considered Wednesday two bills that would put Missouri on par with other states with legal sports wagering. These are sponsored by Houx and Rep. Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peters, and call for revenue generated from betting to go to the state’s education fund. The Missouri Gaming Commission would oversee the program.

“Missourians should be free to engage in sports wagering,” Christofanelli told KMBC. “With legal sports wagering in nearly every state bordering our own, it is common sense for us to pass this bill and provide a legal and regulated framework that will generate revenue for our state’s priorities.”

Each version would earmark at least $500,000 for compulsive gambling problems, added the cited source. In testimony to the committee, Mike Whittle, vice president and general counsel for the St. Louis Cardinals, signaled support for the framework, deeming the bills as “really reflective of the best practices.”

The renewed push follows a series of failed attempts in past sessions. Showcasing their frustration with the lack of movement, more than a dozen lawmakers wore Kansas City Chiefs jerseys on the House floor on Tuesday. For the time being, those in Missouri willing to place a bet on Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup would have to travel to Kansas or Illinois to wager.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Missouri Gaming Association issued a statement on Wednesday calling for lawmakers to take action. “Our own Kansas City Chiefs competing in the Super Bowl has heightened interest in sports betting, yet Missourians will have to leave the state to place a friendly wager or to place bets illegally,” it read.

Proponents have long argued that sports betting is already happening, although on an unregulated basis, and that legalization would make sure that gambling occurs in a safe manner while redirecting tax money to state. And data suggests they are right: figures compiled by geolocation services provider GeoComply show that during the most recent NFL season, 8.7 million attempts by Missourians to place bets in other states were blocked.

At the moment, six of Missouri’s eight neighboring states – Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Tennessee – have legalized wagering. While the Missouri House acted quickly last year, the measure ran aground in the Senate, amid arguments over whether sports betting should be combined with the legalization of video gambling. 

While Missouri failed to legalize, Kansas managed to pass legal sports betting in September 2022, with a goal to lure a pro sports team based in Missouri to the state. Since launch, Kansas bettors have generated a total sports gaming handle of $719 million, leading to $21 million in sportsbook revenue and $2.1 million in tax revenue for the state.