Missouri looks at sports betting again: Is 2023 the year?

February 7, 2023 Missouri State Flag - Casino Genie

It’s time again for Missouri to bring forward a bill on sports betting. The state has seen failed attempts to legalize online betting in each of the last two years, and in 2022 saw neighboring Kansas pass a bill at the first attempt. Now, with the legislative session just warming up, another attempt is being made to make Missouri what would be the 37th US state to pass legislation to regulate sports betting. This time, the mood is cautiously optimistic – perhaps both more cautious and yet more optimistic than ever before.

More cautious, because Missouri lawmakers have been here before. A bill was passed by the House in 2022 and failed to get through the Senate before it ran out of time. In 2021, the same story: no Senate approval for sports betting. This year, the bill is being presented in the Senate much sooner, and everyone knows how high the stakes are. So caution is wise at this point. But lawmakers are also more optimistic, because bipartisan support and the will to move seems to be in place in a way it hasn’t been before.

Perhaps most importantly, the passage of sports betting in Kansas has been a watershed moment for Missouri. For almost half of 2022, Kansans have been able to bet on sporting markets including those related to the Kansas City Chiefs, who have made it to a third Super Bowl in four years. That’s a particularly sore spot for Missouri sports betting backers, because Kansas City, despite the name, is in Missouri. While Kansas is pulling in millions in betting revenue on a team based in its neighboring state, the Show Me State is getting nothing.

This has rankled with lawmakers who are sure to hear from their states’ residents on anything that grinds their gears. When it comes to sports betting, fans who are resident in Missouri, and who in many cases may socialize, work and have family ties with Kansas state residents, are looking on with concern as bets are placed in Kansas. At the same time, social programs are being funded by the tax on betting companies, which makes for a double blow to the Missouri residents who are seeing nothing of the sort.

There are two competing bills ready to be discussed and voted on by the Senate. The more prominent one, brought forward by Sen. Denny Hoskins, would legalize betting at retail and online sports betting platforms. It would also permit the operation of video lottery terminals on licensed premises, which may muddy the waters when it comes to a vote. Some compromise on the issue of VLTs may be required before enough lawmakers feel comfortable backing that bill, which would ringfence tax dollars for education and veterans’ programs.

The second bill, presented by Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, does not include a VLT element but would allow more licenses to be issued to betting companies. As of this moment, it’s not clear which bill will be taken to its conclusion, but the prevailing winds indicate that one or the other will likely become law in 2023.

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