Missouri House Takes First Step Toward Passing Legal Wagering

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Missouri lawmakers opted to move legal sports betting in the state one step closer to reality late Monday with a preliminary House vote of approval.

Live debate was not available to monitor due to technical difficulties with the General Assembly website, but sources say that while several amendments were discussed, none passed. A second vote in favor is still required — with consideration expected this week — for the legislation to advance to the Senate.

The House passed a similar bill in 2022, but it was killed by filibuster in the Senate, and there is no guarantee that won’t happen again this session. Sen. Denny Hoskins still favors linking legal sports wagering to legalization of video lottery terminals. Hoskins’ SB 1 did not make it out of committee in the Senate.

HB 556 and HB 581 together would legalize digital and retail sports betting at a 10% tax rate with that money earmarked for educational initiatives. The proposals would allow for wagering on professional and college sports.

Each of the state’s existing casinos would entitled to up to three platforms, or skins, and each professional sports team would be entitled to one. Casinos and pro venues could also have brick-and-mortar locations, with an exclusion zone around each pro sports venue. The Missouri Gaming Commission would be the regulator.

The bills require a minimum of $500,000 per year to be funneled to responsible gambling programs.

Lawmakers willing to negotiate

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, bill sponsor Dan Houx said he’d be willing to negotiate the tax rate if that would help get his bill across the finish line in the Senate. Last year’s bills proposed multiple tax rates, some as high as 21%, which is the rate state casinos are charged.

After neighboring Kansas launched legal mobile betting last September, Missouri was virtually surrounded by legal betting states. Of its eight border states, only Kentucky and Oklahoma do not offer legal betting, and lawmakers in both states are currently considering the issue. Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, and Tennessee all offer digital wagering. Nebraska has legalized retail betting, but bets are not yet being taken there.

Missouri lawmakers first started discussing legal betting in 2018, months after the U.S. Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was overturned and it became a states’ rights issue, but the state’s legislators have not been able to reach consensus.

Missouri’s legislative session closes May 12, and a mirror wagering bill has already been moved through Senate committees onto the floor in the chamber, without seeing a vote.

“Everyone is doing this on their phones illegally in the state of Missouri right now,” Rep. Phil Christofanelli said, according to the Post-Dispatch. “Quite frankly, we’re looking a little silly.”


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