Missouri House OKs Sports Betting, Slots Bill

Missouri’s House Special Committee on Government Oversight has approved a bill to legalize sports betting and slot machines. The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Dan Shaul (l.), calls for the activity in entertainment districts in Kansas City and elsewhere.

Efforts to bring sports betting to the Show Me State didn’t pass in time for fans to wager on the Kansas City Chiefs. Maybe sports wagering will be on the books if the team repeats next year.

The first legislative step to legalize sports betting and slot machines got the green light January 28 when the House Special Committee on Government Oversight approved HB 2088 and sent it to the House floor.

The comprehensive 31-page gaming bill, sponsored by state Rep. Dan Shaul, included an amendment to allow sports wagering and slot machines in “entertainment districts.”

“What this does is basically allows the Power and Light District (in Kansas City) and also Ballpark Village areas to become an entertainment district so that they could also do sports betting and VLT’s,” Shaul testified.

VLT’s—video lottery terminals—are slot machines. State Rep. Peter Meredith asked whether the amendment just applies to the two districts.

“I believe before this bill is done, they’ll be some expansion of that to some other players that will want to be involved,” Shaul said.

Slot machines have been a high-profile issue, dominating discussion at several House interim gaming hearings in the fall. The Missouri State Highway Patrol testified that the number of complaints about illegal gambling increased from 39 in 2018 to at least 145 in 2019. Most of those complaints dealt with slot machines.

Shaul’s legislation would allow the Missouri Lottery Commission to implement a system of video lottery game terminals and to issue licenses to manufacturers, distributors, operators and handlers. Terminals would be connected to a centralized computer system developed by the Lottery Commission.

Truck stops and fraternal organizations could operate up to 10 video lottery terminals at one location. Bars could operate up to five in a single locale.

Meredith said the legislation should go to a statewide vote, noting the Missouri Lottery’s creation and other major gaming issues went to voters.