Missouri Lawmakers Debate Sports Betting Legalization
Executives and lobbyists in the gaming industry descended upon Jefferson City to discuss with lawmakers the potential revenue and regulations legalized sports betting could bring to Missouri.
Drawing the most attention at the panel was the estimate by one gambling industry expert that the state could generate up to $289 million in wagers per month once the infrastructure was operational in Missouri.
The jaw-dropping estimate from Chris Krafcik, the managing director for political and regulatory affairs for the firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, is based upon research of early returns from other states that have already legalized sports betting.
What lawmakers need to determine as they move on in the process of legalization is what the state could tax to generate the estimated $58-to-$141.6 million in revenue. The gap represents differing estimates that legislators have been given by two analysis of Missouri’s potential windfall from wagering.
The problem with those estimates is that they were made before the recent flood of states that have pulled the trigger on legalization and analysts believe they could be too light on the possible revenue stream generated by wagering in Missouri.
What Problems Do Missouri Lawmakers Cite When Debating Sports Betting?
Missouri’s sports betting debate continues after two years of batting proposals back and forth without much to show for their efforts. Lawmakers have stumbled over hot-button topics such as money allocation, casino regulations, integrity fees to professional leagues and what companies will be able to accept bets in the state.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle for lawmakers is that the state lottery wants to be involved in the process of determining how funds are dispersed by sports betting. Before the recent round of debate, Lottery Director May Scheve Reardon signaled to a gambling conference crowd in New York that his department wants more funding for education.
“The Missouri Lottery is not involved in either drafting or pursuing legislation on sports betting. However, the Lottery Commission is committed to finding ways to increase funding to education. Estimates show sports betting can provide the most benefit to education if both casinos and Lottery retailers are involved,” Reardon said last year.
With nearby states such as Kansas and Illinois primed to begin their own sports betting programs, states like Missouri take the chance of being left out in the cold as residents travel and spend their wagering dollars at casinos in those states.
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What Did Gaming Companies Request From Lawmakers?
One of the biggest requests at the panel was by gaming companies asking lawmakers to freeze out the professional leagues from receiving an integrity fee that would cut into their profits.
Since sports betting already offers slight margins on winnings, the addition of an integrity fee could drive up costs and provide poor odds to customers who could go back to illegally betting with bookmakers who offer better value on their money.
As it stands, no other state has agreed to provide integrity fees to the professional leagues and gaming executives pleaded with legislators not to make Missouri the first in America.
Other panel members urged lawmakers to include mobile betting in their bills, as early returns have shown increased revenue in states that offer a betting app for at-home wagering.