JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — By the time the NFL kicks off its season later this year, you could be legally betting in Missouri on the Kansas City Chiefs or your favorite team.
Currently, if you try to place a sports bet on your phone in the State of Missouri using a service like FanDuel, you won’t be able to because it’s not legal. Sports betting cleared a big hurdle this week inside the Capitol with the House approving it which means fans are one step closer to placing their wager.
“They are allowed to do it in casinos now on slots and on table games,” Rep. Jason Chipman (R-Steelville) said on the House floor Wednesday. “Why not sports betting?”
Legal sports betting in the Show-Me State is closer to becoming a reality than it’s ever been. The legislation received bipartisan support in the lower chamber Thursday. More than 30 Republicans joined two Democrats in voting against the bill with a 115-33 vote.
House bill would allow anyone 21 and older to legally wager on colleges and professional sports teams. It’s estimated to bring in around $15 million according to one of the sponsors, Rep. Phil Christofanelli (R-St. Peters). Roughly 90% would go towards education, a portion going to problems gambling and the rest going to local cities.
“The day before Super Bowl Sunday, about 70,000 Missourians tried to log on to sports betting apps to Illinois and were denied because of geo-fencing,” Chipman said. “For this to work, you have to have your location turned on, on your phone so it knows where you are.”
Back in 2018, the Supreme Court struck down a federal law against sports betting. Since then, roughly 30 states have legalized it, including Illinois.
“My opinion is that it’s a little ridiculous I can go to a casino and lose a thousand dollars playing blackjack, but I can’t bet $50 on the chiefs to win,” Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo (D-Independence) said Thursday.
This would allow betting inside the casinos, online, and inside sports venues, as long as the team agrees. Owners and lobbyists of the state’s major sports teams like the Cardinals, Chiefs, Blues, and Royals have testified in favor of the legislation.
Rep. John Wiemann (R-O’Fallon) said on the House floor Wednesday, in previous years, most casinos were against the idea.
“What I was told was that the casinos were all against this all up until this year, then magically they changed,” Wiemann said. “All the other casinos are deciding we need to get this done so we’ll take whatever deal we can to get this going because we don’t want to keep losing money.”
Wiemann said Ameristar Casino in his district in St. Charles didn’t like how the legislation was set to mandate what data casinos must use for sports betting. This past week, the bill was changed, allowing the casinos to pick as long as they have it approved by the Missouri Gaming Commission.
The bill now heads to the Senate, where Sen. Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg) has filed similar legislation.
“I’ve got friends that have off-short apps and they currently are making bets whether that’s on the St. Louis Blues, the Super Bowl, or baseball and so we want to make sure that revenue stays in here in the state,” Hoskins said.
Unlike the House bill that calls for an 8% tax on wagers, Hoskins is proposing a 21% tax which is what casinos currently have to pay for other games.
“The casinos are very much in love with the House bill because it only has an 8% tax rate,” Hoskins said. “We are giving them a giveaway on this. If we want to make sure that casinos have more profits, then obviously the House bill would be the way to go. If we want to make sure we protect taxpayers and that increase goes towards education and veterans’ homes, then obviously my bill would be a better solution.”
Hoskins’ bill would also allow Missourians to bet inside convenience stores that offer chances on state’s lottery. A priority for Senate president Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan) is to get rid of unregulated, illegal slot machines that have been popping up in gas stations over the years.
“My video lottery terminal bill would make sure you have to have a license for each individual machine and those machines could be regulated,” Hoskins said. “They could be taxed, and that tax would go to the state and a portion would also go to a local municipality.”
He said there are anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 of those “grey” machines in the state. Since they are unregulated, even if it says you’re going to win two times out of a hundred, there’s a chance it won’t happen.
Hoskins’ bill has been heard in a committee but has not been debated on the Senate floor yet.
If the bill from the lower chamber is approved by the Senate and signed by the governor, it’s estimated Missourians will wager around $150 million annually.
The House bill also calls for an annual study that examines problem gambling in the state and the social and economic impacts it has. The state also would be required to provide recovery services and require services and casinos to submit a plan when applying for a license of how to deal with problem gambling.
According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, around 92,000 Missourians are currently struggling with a gambling problem, ranking Missouri 33rd out of 50 states. Last year, there were 4,000 calls and texts to the National Problem Gambling Hotline from Missouri.