Missouri Lawmaker Proposes Truck Stop Slots

Missouri would add truck stop slots under a bill from Missouri state Senator Denny Hoskins (l). But Missouri Gaming Commission Chairman Mike Leara says manpower is lacking.

Missouri state Senator Denny Hoskins said he will introduce a bill allowing slots at truck stops and fraternal and veterans organizations. Each location could have up to five machines. The Missouri Gaming Commission would oversee a centralized system for taxing and regulating the program. Hoskins said his legislation would eliminate the untaxed and unregulated slots that have proliferated statewide in recent years.

However, Missouri Gaming Commission Chairman Mike Leara said he would not have enough staff to oversee and regulate additional legalized slots. “That would be a burden on us. We don’t have the staff on the books to do that. We’re not in a position to efficiently manage all those video lottery terminals out there, as I see it,” Leara said. Last year, in response to Covid-19, the gaming commission eliminated more than two dozen jobs at the state’s 13 casinos that closed as the pandemic spread.

Leara said lawmakers would have to approve a separate budget allowing him to hire more workers, but the legislature’s proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 does not include money to pay for additional staff. As a result, any launch of video gambling or sports betting could be delayed.

Hoskins’ bill shows legalized slots could generate $175 million annually by 2027. The Missouri Lottery Commission would regulate the video terminals.

The Missouri Department of Mental Health also would need to hire more counselors to help problem gamblers and would require additional funds for advertising and public service announcements. The agency’s total annual budget would be $670,000.

According to the fiscal analysis, “Currently, DMH has twelve certified compulsive gambling treatment providers; this number would likely increase over time along with the need for additional compulsive gambling counselors. DMH estimates 25 new compulsive gambling counselors will be needed throughout the state.”