The bills, HB 2502 and HB 2556, were crafted with heavy input from major stakeholders and were on the agenda for discussion and, potentially, a vote, before committee Chairman Scott Cupps opened the meeting by saying the committee would not discuss the bills.
Cupps said the committee, before proceeding, would like to see changes to the bills around problem gambling, “off-site wagering fees,” and promos. Last week, during a three-hour hearing, Rep. Dottie Bailey suggested extending the admission fee that Missouri currently has in place for brick-and-mortar casinos to the virtual world. Proponents of sports betting criticized the idea, which Bailey said during the hearing was a joke, but Cupps on Monday gave a window into how having a fee could be possible.
“The money would go to the county where the wager was placed,” he said, instead of to the county where a casino is located. From Cupps’ comments, it appears that lawmakers are already considering such a change. Should Missouri institute a “virtual admission fee,” it would be the first state in the nation charging bettors an up-front fee for the privilege of placing a digital wager.
PG/RG needs more attention
Another critical discussion point, according to problem gambling advocate Brianne Doura-Schawohl, is the need to increase the $250,000 the Missouri bills would allocate to problem and responsible gambling programs. Also, one of the bills doesn’t include a self-exclusion piece, and advertising guidelines could be beefed up, she said.
Doura-Schawohl suggested a percentage of revenue should be earmarked for problem and responsible gambling programs with a minimum contribution of more than $250,000 set aside annually. Currently, she said, Missouri sets aside 4 cents per person for problem and responsible gambling, while 40 other states set aside an average of 37 cents per person. In addition, she said the bills need more guardrails around problem and responsible gambling in general.
You unfathomable idiots. Your plan to legalize sports betting in Missouri applies to… wagers on Missouri pro teams and nothing else? And no prop betting for…. reasons? This is easily the dumbest state in the Union, I swear. https://t.co/cfeU4bm3cL pic.twitter.com/WsL9OTuKDZ
— Brenden Schaeffer (@bschaeffer12) February 23, 2022
“There are an estimated 92,000 (2.2% of the adult population) Missourians currently struggling with gambling problems,” Doura-Schawohl told Sports Handle. “In addition, according to the 2016 Survey of Problem Gambling Services in the United States, Missouri ranked 33rd out of 50 U.S. states in terms of per capita public funds dedicated to problem gambling services.
“The proposed sports wagering bills in their current iterations have significant deficits as it pertains to problem gambling funding and infrastructure. As Missouri is already working from a deficit, the suggested $250,000 additional funding will not even begin to skim the surface to address the state’s needs around the research, prevention, awareness, treatment and recovery services for problem gambling.”
Promos another potential issue
Cupps said the committee will continue to talk with stakeholders and potentially propose amendments to the bills before moving them forward. Missouri lawmakers have been struggling for four years to move a sports betting bill while neighbors Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Tennessee have all legalized wagering, though it’s not live yet in Nebraska. Illinois, Iowa, and Tennessee all allow for statewide mobile wagering, and Missouri lawmakers have said they are aware that state residents cross the border to bet.
Legalized sports betting could generate more than $15 million in tax revenue for Missouri, according to a new legislative analysis.https://t.co/fjSY0gFn3i
— St. Louis Post-Dispatch (@stltoday) February 23, 2022
The current versions of the bills also allow operators to write off all promotions, and those write-offs, according to Cupps, would be off the top. Cupps indicated that lawmakers would like to see a cap on promotional write-offs, which have become an issue in other states. In states like Colorado and Virginia, tax revenue or money for problem gambling has been markedly lower than expected after massive promotional write-offs in both states.