Missouri lawmakers, led by Sen. Denny Hoskins, have been trying to add legal sports betting nearly since the Supreme Court made it a states’ rights decision in May 2018. Three sessions and three fails later, Hoskins and Rep. Dan Shaul think the climate may have changed just enough to make 2022 the year.
“I sense there’s a frustration at the lack of movement on the bills,” Shaul told Sports Handle. “The casinos want sports betting, the pro teams want sports betting. The VLTs [Video Lottery Terminals] want their piece. They’re getting frustrated, so what happens?
“Denny and I will file similar bills and we’ll see where the frustration will take us. I’ve always been one to see where the market will take it, and let the state benefit from a safe, secure system.”
That mounting frustration Shaul alluded to is this: Since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was overturned in May 2018, 32 U.S. jurisdictions (including Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico) have either launched or legalized sports betting. Among them, three Missouri border states — Illinois, Iowa, and Tennessee — offer legal statewide mobile sports betting, while Mississippi allows in-person sports betting and Nebraska has legalized but is not yet live.
Crossing border for bagel and bet
Hoskins shares stories of Missourians going to Iowa for a weekend to “have a nice dinner, bet on college football all day Saturday and NFL all day Sunday, and then go home,” or driving to a coffee shop just over the Illinois border that offers Sunday morning breakfast specials and getting coffee and bagels while placing sports wagers. DraftKings’ retail sportsbook location in East St. Louis, Ill., draws Missourians as well. The company advertises in St. Louis, and Hoskins thinks it’s having a “significant effect.”
Lawmakers across the country feel pressure to act as more and more U.S. jurisdictions legalize. As the start of the 2020 NFL season, bettors could legally wager in 18 states and the District of Columbia. If Wyoming, South Dakota, and Arizona, all of which are in the regulatory process, hit their marks, that number will be up to 23 (Virginia went live in January and two North Carolina tribal sportsbooks opened in March) when the 2021 NFL season starts. Beyond that, it’s possible that as many as six other states could be up and running before the 2022 Super Bowl.
Missouri essentially went from being a first mover to bringing up the rear.
“There is frustration inside Missouri because other states are moving ahead of us, so whatever we do won’t have the impact that it would have three years ago,” Shaul said. “There is also frustration at not being able to move in our own state legislature.”
For the 2021 session, multiple bills were filed in both the Senate and the House. But none got to a vote.
Lawmakers propose three bills in push to legalize sports betting in Missouri: https://t.co/TPWqgifYSz
— KY3 News (@kytv) December 20, 2020
Even though the climate has shifted, there are some outside issues that could put the brakes on sports betting during the 2022 session. Some Missouri state lawmakers will be running for congressional seats, the state has to roll out redistricting maps, and some members of the legislature are set to term-limit out. The first two, Shaul said, likely mean that not a lot will get done in 2022, but he’s hopeful that legal wagering will be a priority.
‘Gray machines’ will be part of proposals
Another twist is Hoskins’ and Shaul’s desire to regulate the state’s “gray machines” as part of a sports betting bill. Hoskins has tied the issues together since 2018 and says, “I think we need to do gaming all together. I’ve filed separate bills before, but the proponents of VLTs want to add it to sports betting or vice versa. So, I think that any gaming bill will have to have everything in it.”
By way of background, gray machines, or video lottery terminals, are prevalent — Hoskins said there are more than 20,000 — in Missouri. The machines resemble video poker machines but reveal in advance whether or not a player will win the next bet. Because of this, proponents say they are not technically gambling. The machines operate without regulation, meaning the state does not benefit financially from their existence.
Gray machines have long been contentious in the state, and there are currently multiple lawsuits pending. Hoskins says he’s anxious to see if state courts rule that the machines are legal. In any event, both his and Shaul’s bills will include regulating the machines.
The earliest a bill can be filed in Missouri is the Dec. 1 before a session opens. Hoskins and Shaul will file their sports betting bills on that day. Hoskins, who is the chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee, also plans to hold an educational hearing in September during the veto session.
Data mandate, college wagering in flux
The bills will resemble SB 98, which made it out of committee and onto the Senate floor in 2021 but never got to a vote. It was the one of nine sports betting- or gaming-related bills that got to a chamber floor. The 2022 bills will include retail wagering at existing casinos, statewide mobile wagering, some combination of a reasonable tax rate paired with reasonable fees, and no integrity fees, which lawmakers have discarded along the way. Up for discussion will be whether or not to:
- mandate the use of official league data
- allow wagering on college sports or Missouri college sports
- require in-person registration
- allow wagering at professional sports venues
Royalty fees, or mandated data feed fees are not necessary and only exist to placate the leagues.
Why the regulators feel the need to do this is another issue.
Missouri Lawmaker Dreams Of Legal ‘Sports Betting Utopia,’ Prepared To Negotiate https://t.co/nKRVTMeKHS
— Robert Walker (@robertusfsports) February 20, 2020
At this point, Shaul and Hoskins have heard arguments for and against all those points. Both are open to negotiation and say they’ll take the temperature of their colleagues and adjust accordingly. The Senate will take the lead, meaning Shaul would wait for a Senate bill to be approved or at least get some traction before moving forward on the House side. That said, he does want a hearing on his bill. In 2021, his bill died in committee.
“There may be some minor tweaks and changes to the one we had on the Senate floor, but I believe that my colleagues are seeing what other states are doing and we’re losing out to other states,” Hoskins said. “I think it’s become more prevalent and common to bet on sports. We’re the Show Me State, so obviously, we need to be shown.”