Missouri Senator Denny Hoskins (R-District 89) has a sense of humor. When asked on Thursday how the hearing for his SB 44 before the Senate Small Business and Industry Committee went, he replied, “I think it went as well as can be expected, as in nobody is really, really happy and they’re just going to have to decide what they can live with an what they can’t.”
Hoskins will, too. His bill is unique in that it’s the only sports betting bill in the country currently circulating that calls for an “integrity fee” that would be paid back to the state — to be used to repair, maintain and build sports venues. It’s a creative idea that appeals to neither the professional sports leagues, who would rather have a fee paid to them directly, nor the gaming industry, which wants as few taxes and fees as possible. But the idea does seem to appeal to Hoskins’ fellow committee members, who like all lawmakers, constantly field requests from sports and entertainment venues for money.
“Every once in a while I do come up with a good idea, and it just kind of came into my head one day,” Hoskins quipped to colleagues who asked about the genesis of the idea. “With the leagues, it’s hard to justify giving them any money.”
Even without fee to leagues, SB 44 is ‘league friendly’
In his bill, which could get to a committee vote as early as next Thursday, calls for a 0.5 percent “integrity fee” directly off the top of the total handle to be funneled to a newly created “Entertainment Facilities Infrastructure Fund.”
The bill also calls for a 12 percent tax rate, a 2 percent administrative fee, mandates the use of “official league data,” and would allow the professional leagues to dictate what bets can and cannot be placed. Hoskins is the chairman of the eight-member committee and would need five votes to move the bill forward.
It would allow for mobile/web betting online, however, would require patrons to register for their sports betting accounts in person — the Nevada model — which New Jersey and Pennsylvania has bucked in favor of allowing people all over the state to register remotely without having to visit a casino(s).
With the official data purchase requirement alone, Hoskins’ bill could certainly be considered “league-friendly,” and probably one they would celebrate. But Hoskins said it was the idea that the leagues could disallow certain types of wagers that really brought industry representatives to the hearing room.
The hearing was not available for live streaming, but Hoskins said casino representatives were vocal in their opposition to the integrity fee, tax rate, data mandate and allowing the professional leagues carte blanche to disallow certain types of wagers.
“They don’t like that the sport leagues could, if they don’t like a certain kind of bet, they can just notify the gaming commission,” Hoskins said. “When you talk to the sports leagues, they say, ‘we don’t want people to be able to bet on something that one player can control’, like whether or not the first pitch of a baseball game will be a ball or a strike. Or if the first penalty in the Patriots-Rams game will be something in particular.
“They don’t like that. But I see some credence to that (concern from the pro leagues), and I don’t know, maybe we come to a compromise that if sports leagues don’t like certain kind of bet, then they can take it to the commission, and then there would be an appeals process.”
Professional leagues didn’t testify
The professional leagues did not testify at Thursday’s hearing, which is not surprising considering that other than a payout, they’d be getting most of what they want out of a new sports betting law. Hoskins did speak with representatives from the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and the PGA Tour leading up to the hearing.
Hoskins’ bill is one of three currently circulating in Missouri, and one of two in the Senate. Senator Lincoln Hough’s (R-District 30) SB 222 has a 6.75 percent tax rate and Representative Cody Smith’s (R-District 163) HB 119 calls for a 1 percent fee benefting the professional leagues and the NCAA, has a 6.25 percent tax rate and doesn’t allow for state-wide mobile sports betting. But Hoskins is cognizant that it may be some combination of these bills that finally make it the Senate and House floors.
This first version of Hoskins’ bill is his blue sky. It would maximize revenue to the state, and make Missouri a player on the sports betting scene. The state already has about a dozen casinos, so the infrastructure exists, and Missouri is surely a sports-crazy state that is home to teams from three of the four professional leagues. But Hoskins knows his bill, and this first hearing, are only the first volleys on a long path to legalization. Going forward, there will be plenty of negotiating, particularly with proponents of new video lottery terminal legislation in Missouri.
“I think nothing is off the table and that we can come to some sort of compromise,” Hoskins said.