Missouri Coalition Begins Push For Sports-Betting Compromise Bill

February 23, 2022
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A coalition of Missouri professional sports teams and casinos began making their case Tuesday for a sports-betting proposal years in the making.

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A coalition of Missouri professional sports teams and casinos began making their case Tuesday (February 22) for a sports-betting proposal years in the making.

The Missouri House Committee on Public Policy heard testimony on two identical measures, House Bills 2502 and 2556, that represent a compromise proposal from the coalition of stakeholders that includes six Missouri-based pro sports teams, a group of national sports-betting operators, and five of the state’s six casino operators.

“We've all gotten on the same page,” said Bill Dewitt III, president of Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals. “And I believe it's a fair compromise for all involved.”

The plan includes up to three online sports-betting skins for each of the state’s 13 licensed casinos, although some operators own multiple properties in the state, and each owner is capped at six online skins.

Each of the six pro sports teams would also receive a single skin, with provisions included to allow future teams, such as an NBA or WNBA team that does not currently exist in the state, to receive a license as well.

The bill would include a 10 percent tax rate on adjusted gross revenues, which includes full deductions on promotional play.

Still, pushback came on several different fronts during Tuesday’s hearing.

The first came from Boyd Gaming, the lone casino operator not to sign onto the proposal, over objections to a requirement for operators to use official league data to settle in-play wagers.

“I understand why the leagues want to require official league data, it's a revenue source,” said Ryan Soultz, vice president of government affairs for Boyd. “But the flip side is that with a strong regulatory environment, regulators aren't going to allow sportsbooks to just go to Billy Bob's sports data provider to run their book.”

“You want you want to have a robust array of data feeds that come in so you can see discrepancies,” he added. “If there's only one data source, it's corruptible.”

Soultz said that other than the official data language, the rest of the proposal was, for the most part, agreeable to Boyd.

Another source of objection came from video gaming machine operator J&J Ventures, which has been pushing the state to legalize video lottery terminals (VLTs).

The coupling of sports betting and VLT legislation in past years has been pointed to by many observers as the main reason why legislation for either has yet to pass.

“The legislation from our view is a big money grab for the professional sports teams, casinos and the sports-betting operators,” said Andy Arnold, a lobbyist representing the company.

Republican Representative Dottie Bailey, vice chair of the committee, also pushed back against the plan as is and suggested changes that could potentially include an inflation-adjusted increase to the $2 per person entrance fee paid by Missouri casinos.

“I'm representing my constituents, I'm a broker for them,” Bailey said. “And I don't see this as a good deal for them.”

One thing legislators made clear Tuesday is their wariness over a potential advertising flood when the lights come on for legal sports wagering.

The bill would allow sports teams to prohibit gambling-related advertising within 400 yards of stadiums except for team-selected partners, and some legislators voiced concerns about a larger advertising crush seen in neighboring states.

“I was driving through Indiana with some friends of mine a couple of weeks ago and like it was we were bombarded so much by sportsbook billboards and signs and everywhere we went and everything we did all it was the sportsbook ads, and so much so that it became a conversation as we were riding together like, oh my gosh, like I'm tired of seeing this stuff,” said Republican Representative Scott Cupps, the committee chairman.

“And so, I can't help but think that that's a discussion that we need to have when we're working through this because I know there's a lot of people that maybe don't want their entire existence to be bombarded by sportsbook advertisement and promotion.”

“I think what everybody’s trying to say is we don’t want to look like Illinois,” Bailey added.

No votes were taken on either of the bills Tuesday.

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