JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – While Missouri’s neighboring states continue to allow sports betting, it’s still illegal in the Show Me State to place a wager on your favorite team.
Missourians will continue to have to cross state lines to place a sports bet. Odds were high at the beginning of session to legalize it, but anyone placing a wager on the Missouri General Assembly would have lost. At the end of session, Senate Leadership is placing blame on one Republican lawmaker.
“Until that happens, he is solely responsible that we don’t have sports betting in Missouri, no more, no less,” Senate President Caleb, R-Columbia, said.
During the final press conference of the 2023 legislative session on Friday, Rowden said it’s Sen. Denny Hoskins’, R-Warrensburg, fault that sports betting struck out.
“Either he finds more friends or he needs to get out of the way and let Missourians be able to do this thing they should have been able to four or five years ago,” Rowden said.
Hoskins said what’s standing in the way are video lottery terminals, better known as VLT machines, found in gas stations and fraternal and veterans’ organizations.
“I would say I get blamed for blocking it quite a bit and that’s not the only bill I’ve ever gotten blamed for blocking,” Hoskins said. “It’s been estimated that there could be anywhere from 15,000 to 30,000 of these grey machines in the state of Missouri. If you think you are going to win 2 out of every 100 times that you play, no one is checking that, and no one making sure that yes, someone is winning that amount of times.”
Besides legalizing sports betting, Hoskins also wants to regulate and expand VLTs, but not enough lawmakers agree with that idea.
“It’s a fight between video lottery terminals and casinos,” Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence said. “We really need some more adults in the room, I guess.”
In an interview Friday, Hoskins said he was the first lawmaker to file a sports betting bill more than five years ago. He said he was hopeful that sports book this session but not without regulating VLTs and allocating money to compulsive gambling and veterans.
“I didn’t come up here to make millionaires into billionaires as far as the casinos, and if we would pass a sports book-only bill, it would do nothing for our veterans’ homes and cemeteries,” Hoskins said. “Each casino would make about $24 million in net income.”
Last ditch efforts in the final days of session to push forward the legislation failed. After passing its own bill to legalize sports betting earlier this session, the House amended Hoskins’ bill to help businesses in rural Missouri to include sports betting.
“Obviously, the Supreme Court of Missouri would have thrown this out because not every provision in the underlying bill related to taxation,” Hoskins said. “I don’t blame the House for trying to put that on there, but it was a Hail Mary.”
When the bill came up for consideration in the Senate on Friday morning, Hoskins asked for the motion to be withdrawn, laying the bill over, blocking any debate.
Earlier this session when it came time to vote to include VLTs into legislation legalizing sports betting, 13 Republicans and 8 Democrats opposed the amendment. That bill was eventually laid over after more than eight hours of debate and never brought back up again the rest of session.
Hoskins pointed out on the Senate floor earlier this session and in the interview, it’s against the Missouri Republican Party platform to expand gaming, but he is still in favor of allowing Missourians 21 and older to place a wager on their favorite sports team and to regulate VLTs.
“When you talk to the owners of those machines, those small businesses that have those, they believe those are legal,” Hoskins said. “In that aspect, it’s not really an expansion of gaming. It’s unregulated, what we currently have in the state.”
With Missouri playing a losing hand, the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals are now considering putting a question on the ballot and letting Missouri voters decide.
“It seems like a common sense thing that should be a layup, and it’s just a full-court shot, unfortunately,” Rizzo said.
This comes after legislation to raise the threshold to approve an initiative petition failed during the final weeks of session, but Republicans in leadership say it will be a priority next year, making it harder for voters to amend the constitution.
“If the Cardinals and Royals and others decide that they want to put it on the ballot, then more power to them,” Hoskins said.
Hoskins said he plans to talk with his colleagues over the next year to find a path forward. When asked what a perfect sports betting bill looks like, he said it would include $10 million for problem and compulsive gambling, money towards veterans’ homes and cemeteries, raising the admission rate casinos pay per person, and allowing only up to three video lottery machines per business.
He said he plans to file legislation regarding sports betting and video lottery terminals next session.