Missourians who want to bet on sports may finally see some light coming through the clouds, after state Governor Mike Parsons finally answered the question on whether there would be action to make wagering legal. Parsons remained notably non-committal on when this might happen, and on whether he would sign a sports betting bill into law, but there was enough information in his answers to suggest that he would be reluctant to stand in the way if a bill came through Congress.
There have been numerous attempts to make betting happen in the Show Me State over the years, the most recent of those being filibustered out when it came before the Senate in May. Since then, Kansas has passed a bill, seen it signed and launched sports betting with considerable success, which may well prompt reluctant lawmakers to step off the fence and act to bring Missouri into line with its neighboring state.
There is definitely enough support behind a bill to bring one to Congress, with representative Dan Houx presenting a new bill in September. It will not be discussed this year, as congressional business has been decided for the rest of 2022, but leaders of both parties in the state Senate have indicated a determination to bring the bill up for a vote, and indicated their support for its passage. Considering that an almost identical bill has already passed through the House of Representatives, it now seems more or less a formality that this one will gain bipartisan support.
That leaves Gov. Parsons, whose signature would be needed on any legislation to make it official. When pressed recently on the matter, he said that sports betting was one of those things that would inevitably happen when it happens, and that it was not his say on whether to bring a bill up. Asked if he would sign such a bill were it to pass, he said only that he would do nothing to obstruct such a bill in Congress and that it was a matter for Congress to decide. Given that any bill would have the broad support of lawmakers in all parties, and a likely majority of Missouri residents, it seems unlikely Parsons would wish to fly in the face of consensus.
Looking at all of the information in the round, it seems hard to conclude that there will not be a bill on the governor’s desk at some point in 2023 – probably quite early in the year, given legislative enthusiasm for getting this done. It seems equally unlikely that the governor would nix the bill if and when it passes through Congress, so it does appear that sports betting in Missouri just took a significant step forward. Although there would then be some work still to do, there will almost inevitably be sports betting in Missouri in time for the 2023 NFL season, as there was in Kansas for the start of this year’s play.