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It’s looking like Missouri will yet again miss the mark when it comes to legalizing sports betting. Senate Bill 98, sponsored by Senator Denny Hoskins, looked like the front runner for a sports betting and gambling framework in MO. Unfortunately, as the deadline to make a decision edges ever closer, there’s no movement on the bill, and it is expected to die on the floor.
For the better part of four years, Missouri has been trying to open up its gambling laws and bring in some much-needed revenue. Not without difficulty, however, as lawmakers just cannot seem to come to a consensus.
In recent years, there have been over a dozen proposals from various MO state senators and representatives to legalize some form of sports betting or expand gambling past floating casinos and the lottery. None have made it through their respective chamber in the Missouri General Assembly, a fact which continues to be true to this day.
As a bill moves through any state’s legislature, it only has a matter of time to get pushed through the proper committee if it wants to see the light of day. In Missouri, the Senate session ends on May 14th, and it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see any movement on the bill before then.
Had any of the proposed gambling expansion bills, namely Hoskins’ SB 98, had been considered as scheduled, we might have seen legislation on the signing table by the end of the year. However, Monday’s deadline came and went without a discussion of how to implement SB 98 in a way that the entirety of the General Assembly can agree on, essentially pulling the plug on the bill.
One major issue affecting the ability to move forward with sports betting is a simple one: staffing. The chairman of the Missouri Gaming Commission, Mike Leara, was quoted in late April saying that even if slot machines find their way into legal territory, the MGC “(doesn’t) have the staff on the books to do that”.
Another issue is the so-called “gray machines”: video lottery terminals (VLTs) that operate in the gray area left in the void of clear betting laws. Hoskins and others argue that eliminating gray-area VLTs by legalizing and regulating more gambling would curtail a great deal of illegal betting in the state. After the Senate failed to advance his SB 98 this week, he was quoted as saying “it seems the proliferation of illegal gaming in Missouri is not just an acceptable outcome, but an outcome that is preferable to regulation”.
Senator Hoskins is terminally hopeful about the attempts to legalize sports betting in Missouri, but it’s not likely that we’ll see the practice become legal this year. Hoskins said after the failed attempt to move SB 98 forward that he is ”not discouraged” and “will continue to work with those willing to implement a regulated gaming environment”.
With a Republican-controlled legislature and strong pushback from anti-gambling groups, the situation might not be as hopeful as Hoskins portrays. Throw in Mr. Leara’s comments about staff shortages, and it’s clear to see that legalizing sports betting and expanding gambling in the Show-Me State is going to be an arduous journey indeed. Better luck next session, Senator Hoskins…
Chris Altman is a traveling writer and content specialist covering everything from betting to plane crashes. He has been working in sports betting, specifically legislation for some time now, covering industry developments and the legal landscape of sportsbooks in the U.S. Chris is also a published short story writer and zine editor. Email: [email protected]More info on Chris Altman
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