Missourians might well be betting on NFL and MLB games today had it not been for a state senator whose filibuster allowed a sports betting bill to die in May at the expiry of the state's regular legislative session.
Now, Missouri is back on track to become the 37th jurisdiction to have legal sports betting in the U.S. Plans are being laid to revive a version of the original bill in January when the state legislature reconvenes and attempts to correct the previous failed attempt at bringing both retail and online sports betting to the Show Me State.
Last week, Rep. Dan Houx, R-Warrensburg re-introduced House Bill 4 at a special committee hearing of the state assembly. This laid the groundwork for Houx and fellow Missouri lawmakers to re-file the bill at the first opportunity, which is during the next regular session of the Missouri legislature that gets underway in January 2023.
Bowing to pressure from Gov. Mike Parson, the committee chose not to vote on H.B. 4., but the bill's sponsor said that it is now inevitable that the legislature will pass at the beginning of the new year.
"Come January, we'll have the bill filed again and we'll be off and running with it," said Houx.
Sports betting bill a "priority" for next legislative session
Following the September 1 launch of sports betting in neighboring Kansas, Missouri Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, indicated in a Tweet that he was determined to bring the bill up for a vote at the earliest possibility next year.
In comments made to a Fox TV affiliate in St. Louis, Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, noted that he totally agrees with the floor leader, as "these chambers look like fools for not getting it done."
"I think it's ridiculous," said Rizzo. "I have friends that are going to Kansas every weekend. They get up early, they go to Kansas, they make their bets, and come back to watch the football game."
Since Kansas went live, there have been 340,000 blocked attempts by Missourians attempting to access Kansas sportsbooks, 57% of which came from Kansas City, according to Rep. Kurtis Gregory, R-Marshall.
Rizzo also noted that Missourians can gamble and potentially "lose their life savings" at a casino — but can't bet on the state's local NFL team.
"I hope it gets done," added Rizzo. "I hope Patrick Mahomes is the MVP and I hope that the Chiefs win the Super Bowl and I can bet on it."
Legislators on both Democratic and Republican sides of the aisle stated that the failure to enact sports betting legislation in April as they intended has exasperated taxpayers — and the plan is to rectify that issue.
"My neighbors are very upset that we haven't gotten this done in Missouri," said Rep. Ashley Aune, a Democratic House member representing Kansas City's District 14.
Newly chosen Speaker of the House Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, also told Fox 2 that the sports betting legislation should already have been passed.
Pro sports teams and major sportsbooks pressed their case
Representatives from the association representing casinos, as well as representatives from the Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, and Kansas City Current, were all present at the hearing to express their support for the measure.
"We are seeing this is what our fans want," a representative for the Cardinals told lawmakers at the committee hearing. "We get yelled at because they think we are geofencing them out."
Meanwhile, Sean Ostrow, spokesperson for Sports Betting Alliance, representing Bally Bet, BetMGM, Fanatics, FanDuel, and DraftKings, reminded state legislators of the "tremendous appetite for sports" in the Midwest and that they assume Missouri is "no different."
Last Monday, Houx advised the committee that the bill is essentially the same as that which passed the House earlier this year (but not the Senate): permitting both retail and mobile wagering, although the tax rate bumped up to 10% from 8%.
In March, two sports betting bills — H.B. 2502 and H.B. 2556 — arrived in the Senate after being approved by the House. Both bills died on the Senate floor without ever coming up for a vote due to a four-hour filibuster by state Sen. Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg) which obliged Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Schatz (R-St. Louis) to adjourn the session out of exasperation.
Hoskins, despite his overall support of legalized sports wagering, objected to the fact that the House bills did not include a provision to also legalize the approximately 20,000 video gaming terminals (VGTs) that operate as a grey market in Missouri.
Hoskins sought to allow for VGTs in restaurants, bars, convenience stores, and fraternal organizations and complained that the sportsbooks had lobbied the House into removing VGTs from the legislation.
Ironically, Hoskins ultimately agreed to drop his objections to the sports betting bills in May — but by then it was too late to do anything about it.