Missouri Lawmakers File Sports Betting Bills

Two Missouri state representatives have filed similar bills that would legalize sports betting. A state Senator, Denny Hoskins (l.), also has sponsored a measure that would allow sports wagering as well as regulate video lottery terminals.

In Missouri, legalized sports betting could become a reality under bills filed by Republican state Reps. Phil Christofanelli and Dan Houx.

Christofanelli, sponsor of HB 581, said, “It’s just simply been too long for our legislature to fail to act on this issue that’s so important to many of our constituents.” Houx, sponsor of HB 556, stated, “With geofencing today we can see people going across the Missouri River and the Mississippi River in St. Louis to Illinois. They have a red light on, it goes green, they turn around on the next exit and drive home.”

Both bills propose taxing sports betting revenue at 10 percent and include funds for problem gambling services. The measures do not include regulating video lottery terminals, as proposed in SB 1, a sports wagering bill filed by state Senator Denny Hoskins.

Houx said, “It’s always been my belief video lottery and sports gambling are two separate bills so it’s just a sports gambling bill all on its own.” His measure also prohibits prop bets.

Houx said he’s optimistic about the legislation’s chances. “We’re back at it. We’re going to keep going and working hard at it. I believe it’s going to be one of the top 10 bills coming out of the House this year,” he said.

Analysts have estimated sports betting would generate $15 million to $20 million in annual revenue.

Regarding regulating video lottery terminals, as proposed in Hoskins’ measure, new House Speaker Dean Plocher said he’s willing to consider it.

“If there’s something that can be fixed to protect Missouri’s consumers, I’m open to that. I would support what’s best for the consumer and as this legislation goes through the process, as the testimony comes forward regarding those machines, we’ll take that under advisement and see what we can do,” Plocher said.

He added, “The Missouri consumer is important. They don’t need to be misled. We need to have continuity of laws. I think we need to have responsible legislation that manages the products that Missourians are buying.”

Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who was appointed by Governor Mike Parson to replace Eric Schmitt, now a U.S. Senator, said overseeing video lottery terminals is “an issue that’s up to local law enforcement investigators and local prosecutors.”

Video lottery terminal operators claim the machines are not gambling devices. Measures to regulate them have failed for several years due to stalemates over any gambling legislation, plus heavy lobbying by Torch Electronics. The largest operator of video lottery terminals in Missouri, Torch employs Strategic Capitol Consulting, led by former Missouri House Speaker Steve Tilley.