State Senate Unlikely to Legalize Missouri Sports Betting in 2023

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
State Senate Unlikely to Legalize Missouri Sports Betting in 2023

And just like that, it appears the push to legalize Missouri sports betting in 2023 has already ended.

Indeed, the attempt to bring gambling to The Show-Me State isn't technically over. This round of legislative meetings can adjourn as late as June 8. That gives the House of Representatives and Senate almost two months to get on the same page. Eight weeks or so sounds like plenty of time. It might not be. Murmurings since the legislative meetings began earlier this month suggest the issue is already circling the drain. Some policymakers have even gone on the record with their frustrations and pessimism.

“I’ve been down this road before,” Democratic Senator Karla May said, according to St. Louis Post Dispatch. “I’m OK with sports betting. I think we should have it. The problem is the Legislature is so stubborn and so controlled by special interests.”

Another Senator, Caleb Rowden, weighed in on the matter as well. "“I’m ready to get sports betting done, the Republican Senator explained. “I don’t think this is a partisan issue. We’ve just kind of been spinning our wheels."

What's the hold up on sports betting in Missouri? And can it be resolved in time to put a legal gambling measure on the 2024 general election ballot? The stakes here are high. Let's see how they might play out.

The Same Old Obstacle Continues to Impede Missouri Sports Betting

Last year, serious momentum built up in favor of Missouri sports betting. It ended up falling apart after the Senate attempted to include an 11th-hour addendum. That proposed add-on would have legalized the use of video gambling terminals, otherwise known as VGTs. Split opinions on their implementation derailed what was a promising sports betting campaign.

Believe it or not, this same issue also eroded talks in 2021. And guess what? The use of VGTs may cost Missouri the chance to legalize sports betting again this year. Here's the latest report from the St. Louis Post Dispatch's Kurt Erickson:

"Despite top leaders pushing to bring sports betting to the state, disputes over legalizing the unregulated video gambling machines, as well as general opposition to gambling, were back on display as lawmakers head into the final weeks of their annual legislative session with the issue unresolved...[Senator Denny] Hoskins and [Senator Karla] May have pushed to legalize video slot machines, while also ridding the state of unregulated and untaxed video gambling devices that have flooded gas stations, liquor stores and other outlets."

Senator Hoskins, a Republican, isn't a stranger to the push for VGTs. He has essentially spearheaded the campaign in recent years. But he's struggled to generate bi-partisan support. Senator May, a Democrat, is one of the few exceptions. Officials generally worry that VGTs are predatory practices and will wind up appearing in and exploiting the most socioeconomically challenged communities. More recently, they have pointed to a lawsuit against the use of illegal slot machines in Missouri as evidence that the practice is too rampant.

On the flip side, however, VGT supporters argue that legalizing them would give the state a better opportunity at regulating use and weeding out non-sanctioned instances. Whether that's true is debatable. Setting up a VGT compliance department—or mechanisms—as part of legal sports would definitely. It could also make VGTs more accessible to establishments without proper licenses.

Other Obstacles are Standing in the Way of Missouri Sports Betting

VGTs are not the only division point among policymakers. Officials in the House and Senate have expressed concern with other data points.

Some lawmakers want to charge a larger tax to online sportsbooks than on-site odds providers inside casinos. Others have debated whether pro sports teams should be granted gambling licenses to open their own sportsbooks. A handful of decision-makers have also harped on college sports betting. Some states have made certain college wagers illegal. Others have been more flexible. Missouri's House and Senate members appear split.

Perhaps the biggest issue aside from VGTs, though, is revenue allocation toward problem gambling. The most popular Missouri sports betting bills call for a flat rate of money being contributed to gambling addiction funds. That rate works out to less than 1 percent of projected revenue, which is low in comparison to other states. This has created yet another divide among policymakers.

Missouri Grappling with a Population Already Betting on Sports

Numerous measures remain on the table in Missouri. Multiple proposals have also been shot down. Two bills that were just introduced were widely opposed. One would have added a $2 fee to certain slot machine usage and regulated it separately from sports betting. The other sought to add the XFL to the list of gaming options. Both proposals failed to gain any traction among policymakers and were decisively dismissed by vote.

All the while, Missourians are still finding ways to bet on sports. A handful of neighboring states like Kansas and Illinois have already legalized sports wagering, and Missourians are known to travel both places frequently to place their wagers. People are also able to still sign up with top online sportsbooks despite The Show-Me State's betting laws.

A recent study around the NFL gambling found that sports wagering is actually on the rise in Missouri. From the St. Louis Post Dispatch: "Figures compiled by GeoComply, which tracks attempts to place bets based on the location of a mobile phone, found that during the most recent National Football League season, 8.7 million attempts by Missourians to place bets in other states were blocked."

That's a lot of money potentially being left on the table. And the revenue opportunities have absolutely been a focus among pro-sports-betting lawmakers during the recent legislative sessions. Whether these types of arguments will be successful remains to be seen. But if the sentiments from Senator Karla May are any indication, Missouri sports betting won't be legalized in 2023.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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