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House of Representatives Approve Missouri Sports Betting Bill, Now Moves to Senate

Robert Linnehan

by Robert Linnehan in Sports Betting News

Updated Mar 22, 2023 · 1:11 PM PDT

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  • The House of Representatives today approved a Missouri sports betting bill by a vote of 118-35
  • The bill legalize online and retail sports betting for state casinos and professional sports franchises
  • Real challenge will next come in the Senate

As expected, the Missouri House of Representatives roundly approved of a Missouri sports betting bill today, passing the piece of legislation by a vote of 118-35.

HB 556, sponsored and authored by Rep. Dan Houx (R-54), now heads to the Missouri Senate where it faces a much tougher road to legalization and the threat of derailment from video lottery terminals (VLTs) looms large.

The bill was perfected in the House on Monday.

Missouri Sports Betting Approved by House, but Senate Poses Greater Challenge

Houx’s bill, and its companion piece HB 581, now move to the Senate where sports betting died in 2022. During last year’s session, the sports betting issue was ultimately derailed by proponents of VLTs who hoped to see their legalization included with any potential sports betting laws.

The threat of VLT derailment again exists this session, despite the issues being bifurcated in 2023. Several combination bills to legalize VLTs and sports betting were defeated in committee, much to the dismay of VLT proponents such as Sen. Denny Hoskins (R-21). Last year, Hoskins filibustered a sports betting bill that had a VLT component stripped from its language and has alluded to upending this year’s Senate session if VLTs were not included in sports betting legislation.

VLTs are considered as “gray machines,” which are unregulated gambling machines located in state rest stops, gas stations, and various businesses with liquor licenses. Hoskins and VLT allies hope to legalize the machines, tax bets made on the machines, and regulate the VLT market in Missouri.

Throughout this session, Missouri professional sports franchises and casinos have requested the two issues be separated from one another to give sports betting a better chance at legalization.

It remains to be seen when Houx’s bill could be discussed by the Senate, or if it will move through committee and reach the Senate floor.  For the last few weeks Senate debate has largely revolved around a bill to ban gender-affirming healthcare for state minors. Democrats filibustered the bill for several days leading up to the Senate’s spring break and Republicans have vowed to force a vote on the controversial issue. Negotiations between the two parties have so far largely been unproductive and the issue may put a halt to the rest of the legislation scheduled for 2023.

Missouri Sports Betting Bill Details

If approved, Houx’s legislation will allow Missouri casinos to partner with up to three sports betting operators and professional sports franchises the ability to partner with up to one operator. In-person sports betting will only be available at state casinos.

This would allow for up to 45 online sports betting operators in Missouri, as there are 13 casinos and six professional sports franchises.

Every professional sports franchise in the state supported the bill during its public debate in committee.

Missouri is losing out on millions in potential tax revenue as long as sports betting is illegal in the state, Houx said. Missouri can either chose to legalize sports betting, or wait another year while residents take part through other means.

While the bill currently sits at a 10% sports betting tax on adjusted gross revenue, during its perfect Houx said he would be amenable to a higher tax rate if that was the difference between it being passes or defeated. Two amendments were floated during perfection that proposed raising the rate to either 15% or 21%, but both were defeated.

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