Missouri legislators have begun the process of once again trying to move sports-betting legislation, although the weariness of multiple failed attempts was on display during a hearing on Tuesday (January 23).
“I think we’ve heard it so many times, I feel like it’s Groundhog Day,” said Republican state Representative Dan Houx in presenting House Bill 2331 before the House Special Committee on Public Policy.
An ongoing battle in the Missouri Senate over replacing grey-market skill machines with a lawful network of video gaming terminals has been a roadblock for any type of sports betting-only legislation for several years, and with the key lawmaker holding things up set to leave the legislature after 2024, the legislative route may not be much smoother this year.
The House passed a similar bill to the current legislation in 2023 just as it did one year earlier, but on both occasions the bill died in the Senate.
An alliance of the state’s professional sports teams and major sportsbook operators has pushed an alternative route, pursuing a ballot initiative that would permit sports betting and would not require legislative action.
The group has maintained that despite those efforts, sport would prefer a legislative route rather than leaving it up to the voters via a potentially expensive referendum campaign.
“There’s an approach to work on an [initiative] if we’re not successful here legislatively this year,” said Bill DeWitt, president of Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals. “We would gladly suspend that effort if we were able to get legislative approval through this bill.”
Leaders in both chambers of the legislature have been skeptical of the chances of a legislative solution, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“Both sides are pretty entrenched,” Senate President Caleb Rowden told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently. “You haven’t seen a lot of movement.”
“I wouldn’t bet on it, no pun intended,” added House Speaker Dean Plocher.
HB 2331 would permit Missouri casinos and professional sports teams to obtain licenses to offer mobile sports wagering, with casinos each receiving three mobile betting skins and sports teams receiving one skin. Casinos would also be able to offer land-based wagering.
Operators would pay a 10 percent tax on adjusted gross revenues, with full promotional deductions for the first year of wagering, then declining 25 percent each year until year five when no promotional deductions would be permitted.
The proposed ballot initiatives feature a similar financial structure, but various different versions of the proposals backers need to choose from would also allow for untethered licenses to be awarded, in addition to the licenses tied to the casinos and sports teams.
FanDuel and DraftKings have been among the biggest financial backers of the ballot initiative to date, contributing about $2.5m to the political action committee “Winning for Missouri Education”, which is promoting the initiative.
Missouri is one of 12 remaining states in the U.S. to not offer any form of regulated sports betting. The state's legislative session runs through May 17.