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As the main sticking point, Missouri legislators were unable to converge on a point of what sports betting should inevitably look like in the Show-Me State. Currently, eight bills have been filed. Most of the bill authors are linked to either the state casinos or those lobbying for video lottery terminals. Though the hearing did not turn into an official vote, it was a significant step forward and a path toward progress in 2021.
Still, the primary issue remaining for Missouri sports betting is who the betting operators’ main backer is. Most states are using casinos for operators to form partnerships. There is a fierce battle brewing between the casinos involving video lottery terminals that would also like a significant share.
The Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee held the hearing regarding two sports betting bills filed into the state. The session lasted nearly two hours. Sens. Caleb Rowden and Tony Luetkemeyer were sponsors of the bills that were heard. Both betting bills have a similar language with 13 skins involved for Missouri.
Electronic gambling machines are frequently found in neighboring states like Illinois but remain controversial in Missouri. Missouri’s 13 casinos emphatically oppose regulated VLT machines, fearing it would come at the expense of the casino industry.
According to casino proponents including Sen. Denny Hopkins, total revenue lost to VLTs would exceed any revenue gains from legalizing sports wagering. The backers of the new bill claim new revenue potential justifies sports betting However, VLT lobbyists say the machines, which could be installed in certain public places, would likely draw additional tax dollars. More than statewide mobile betting could possibly provide.
Rowden could inevitably see more support from some Missouri lawmakers and support from Mike Winter, Executive Director of the Missouri Gaming Association. That bill authorizes the state’s 13 casinos to open retail and digital sportsbooks.
Sen. Luetkemeyer was also interviewed during the hearing about his bill. It is like Rowden’s version but allows for lower tax rates plus the overall industry is structured slightly differently. Luetkemeyer wants to add sports betting districts outside of Kansas City and St. Louis sports venues.
Overall, this will be a difficult fight for VLT’s backers. However, video lottery terminals could play a huge role in some form of what Missouri sports betting will look like. There is a possibility that Missouri could expand sports betting even further by using VLT’s. But also, a chance that casinos and video lottery terminal proponents could also delay a sports betting bill if they do not believe they are receiving an equitable fair share.
There are also a few other lesser dividing issues involving the sportsbook operators should sport betting legalization come to the passage.
Professional sports teams within the state including the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs, and St. Louis Blues have testified in support of Sen. Luetkemeyer’s proposal. Under his bill, the leagues would be compensated for official league data on “in-play” wagering and would also have the right to restrict certain types of wagers. Luetkemeyer mentioned that he was updating his bill to create “entertainment zones” to provide for the six professional sports facilities in major Missouri cities, St. Louis, and Kansas City.
More hearings are expected to be scheduled with the VLT issue the primary focus to be resolved.
Lawmakers will have to decide on which specific sports betting bill they wish to back, or potentially they could use language from all three bills being considered to create a new version to work with.
Missouri like several other US states is under pressure to find new revenue sources to deal with deficits involving COVID-19. However, there has been no official timeline mentioned to meet a decision on this issue.
Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
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