With the recent news that legal sports betting won't come to Missouri in 2022, many officials have come out to express their frustration over a matter they consider a no-brainer. One of these officials includes Missouri state senator Holly Thompson-Rehder.
A known proponent of online sports betting in Missouri, Rehder called the decision to pass on two separate gambling initiatives in 2022"frustrating" and "ridiculous" while speaking with reporters. These sentiments align with what many others in the state are feeling—especially when they know legal sports betting is coming to the neighboring Kansas in time for the 2022 NFL season.
Given the most recent failure to pass a sports betting bill, the timeline for legalized gambling in Missouri has shifted to, in all likelihood, 2024. That will no doubt anger Rehder and many others, all of whom seem to be asking the same question: Why?
Why Missouri State Senator Supports Legal Sports Betting
Though many government officials have been outspoken on the subject of sports betting in Missouri, Rehder has perhaps expressed the strongest opinions on the matter.
"I support (sports betting) wholeheartedly," she said plainly. "We’re losing revenues to surrounding states [and] I think we need them in Missouri."
This is a common refrain from people who support legal sports betting. "It's already happening. We can't stop it. So why not capitalize on it?" That hypothetical dialogue might seem reductive, but it's actually spot-on. And it's also a fair stance to take.
Residents in Missouri are already betting on sports. Whether they're traveling across state lines to place wagers or signing up with one of the websites from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks, there are no shortage of alternatives. At this point, refusing to legalize sports gambling doesn't actually prevent anything. It merely changes the methods by which people place bets—all while costing the state money.
Projected Sports Betting Revenue in Missouri
For some, money isn't enough of a reason to legalize sports betting in Missouri. They are home to the United States' 19th largest population, as of the 2021 census. Surely a middle-of-the-road market size like this isn't losing out on that much cash, right?
As Rehder alluded to in her comments, nothing could be further from the truth. Missouri may not be a massive market in terms of professional sports franchises, but they are a college football betting goldmine. Ditto for betting on college basketball. We also can't discount the interest their residents have in pro sports. Location is no longer as important to fandom, since the internet has made everything eminently accessible no matter where you live.
To that end, let's consider sports betting in Maryland. They have the 18th largest population in the United States, just a notch above the market size in Missouri. Since implementing sports betting in December 2021, they have taken in nearly $200 million in total wagers, according to multiple reports. And that's without even going through a full NFL regular season. By the time their one-year anniversary rolls around, most projections have them taking in over $1 billion in total bets.
It's not unreasonable to assume Missouri can sustain a similar volume of sports betting. And while that $1 billion figure isn't pure profit, when you take the actual revenue and assign the proposed tax rate in the Show Me State (around 8-plus percent), you're talking about millions of dollars in additional income each year.
Missouri State Senator Explains Why Sports Betting Failed in 2022
Knowing how much money Missouri stands to make, it's hard not to wonder why the state has (repeatedly) passed on the legalization of sports betting. The most recent refusal is more perplexing than any other instance because there seemed to be real momentum towards passing one of the bills through. Missouri government officials went back and forth on nuanced details, suggesting a willingness to compromise, only to see both initiatives fall flat before legislative sessions ended.
Plenty of attempts have been made to explain where it all went wrong. Missouri state senator Holly Thomas Rehder provided probably the most salient and succinct synopsis, telling reporters: "It got close, real close, this year. The Senate dilly-dallied around the whole session, tried to get a few things passed in the last week, but the bill didn’t get through...From what I saw, you had the casinos pushing back. People are territorial and I get it because nobody wants to lose money. They just couldn’t pull it off."
Ironically enough, the "territorial" aspect of legal sports betting is not unique to Missouri. Tribal-backed casinos have been fighting against commercial online sportsbooks in a bunch of states. They argue that larger companies like DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars and BetMGM not only stand to eat up the lion's share of the sports betting business, but that the revenues they make will be funneled out of state, since they only operate in a physical capacity in certain locations.
This point is not unfounded, and it has held up legal sports betting across other states—most notably in Florida, where they actually rolled it out only to repeal it later. However, hope can potentially be seen in California. They will have two separate initiatives on the November 2022 ballot. One of them legalizes online gambling in addition to on-site betting but stipulates that each licensed digital sportsbook must partner with a tribal casino.
Could a similar setup convince Missouri state senators and other government officials to reconsider their stance on legal sports betting? We won't know the answer for over a year...at least.
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