Missouri Casinos Team Up For New Sports-Betting Push

January 28, 2022
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A new lobbying alliance of Missouri casinos and pro sports teams is hoping to finally get a sports-betting bill across the goal-line in 2022 as the Show Me State faces extra competition from neighboring states.

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A new lobbying alliance of Missouri casinos and pro sports teams is hoping to finally get a sports-betting bill across the goal-line in 2022, as the Show Me State faces extra competition from neighboring states.

In Missouri, veteran state Senator Denny Hoskins has reintroduced two bills authorizing both sports betting and video lottery terminals (VLTs) in bars and truck stops.

But casino operators in Missouri remain opposed to replace unregulated gaming machines with legal devices in retail locations, which they argue would have a negative impact on their gaming and non-gaming revenues.

Previously, Hoskins has championed dealing with both issues in a single bill, instead of standalone bills legalizing sports betting or VLTs independently.

Last year, the Senate reached an impasse on his measure that would have authorized 10,000 VLTs and allowed the Missouri Gaming Commission (MGC) to license the state’s 13 casinos to offer sports wagering and expressly outlawed grey-market gaming devices.

The bill stalled after senators approved an amendment offered by Senator Mike Moon to send the proposal to a public vote in a referendum.

Prior to this year’s session, Hoskins told VIXIO GamblingCompliance that he would not be deterred from trying again to reach a consensus on legalizing sports betting, VLTs and other forms of gaming in one package.

But that was before a coalition of casinos and Missouri professional sports franchises reached an accord to support the legalization of sports wagering. Bills reflecting the alliance's model legislation have already been filed by Tony Luetkemeyer in the Senate, and Phil Christofanelli and Dan Houx in the House.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Senator Dan Hegeman, is expected to take up one or more of the four gaming bills assigned to the committee during hearings scheduled for next Tuesday (February 1) and Thursday (February 3).

MGC chairman Mike Leara said the agreement reached between the teams and gaming interests has angered Hoskins, while Moon remains opposed to any gaming expansion.

Still, despite the current issues, there is a “very large appetite for sports betting” in the legislature.

“We don’t want to be the only holdout in the Midwest,” Leara told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.

Under the agreement, six Missouri pro teams would be entitled to deploy online mobile sports betting via a designated partner and host a mobile wagering lounge at their home arenas, but not an actual retail sportsbook location.

The teams are: Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals; National Hockey League’s St. Louis Blues; Major League Soccer’s St. Louis Soccer Club; NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs; and National Women’s Soccer League Kansas City Current.

Casino operators would be entitled to three mobile skins for each of their properties, capped at a maximum of six. Penn National Gaming and Caesars Entertainment each own three properties, and under the agreement would get six skins. Casinos could also operate retail sportsbooks.

Revenue from sports betting would be taxed at 10 percent, with operators required to use official league data.

“We are hopeful the legislature will consider a standalone sports-betting bill on its own merits and look forward to working together with the teams and online operators to support our compromise language in Jefferson City,” Jeff Morris, Penn’s vice president of public affairs and government relations, told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.

Rising Regional Competition

Reconsideration of the issue comes as Missouri finds itself increasingly surrounded by legal sports betting, with neighbors Illinois, Iowa and Tennessee all offering mobile wagering and Arkansas poised to do so soon.

Arkansas’ three casinos will have to wait a little long before launching mobile betting, however, after the state's Racing Commission this week delayed approval of new regulations by a joint legislative committee that approves all rulemaking in the state.

Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the state's Department of Finance and Administration that oversees the commission, said regulators requested that the rules be held back until the Legislative Council's next meeting due to new questions raised by legislators.

“The Racing Commission met briefly (January 25) via conference call to approve a small technical change to one item in the rules,” Hardin said. “The commission voted unanimously to change [the terms] Net Gaming Revenue to Net Casino Gaming Receipts” to ensure consistency.

“This change won’t affect the overall plan for mobile sports betting although it did result in new questions,” he said. “It is yet to be determined if the rules will be considered in February or March. It is unlikely the rules are approved prior to the Super Bowl.”

Whenever the legislative committee does consider the regulations, Hardin said they would become effective immediately upon approval. Arkansas has offered land-based sports wagering since July 2019.

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