A special session of the Missouri legislature may discuss a bill to legalize sports betting in the state, but spokespeople confirmed this weekend that there would be no vote on the bill just yet. This ended the possibility that sports betting could be legalized in the Show Me State this side of 2023, but it does demonstrate that there is intent to offer sportsbook services before too long. State representative Dan Houx advanced his bill for consideration, but this week’s special session will instead focus on tax matters as originally planned.
Missouri has been kicking about the idea of sports betting for some time, but when neighboring Kansas stole a march on them by not just passing the legislation, but launching betting services before the start of the NFL season, this reawakened the idea in lawmakers’ minds. Famously, as fans began to bet both online and in person in Kansas, Missouri locals tried to use online platforms to bet on the state’s NFL team the Kansas City Chiefs. They were unable to make any bets, as sports betting is only legal in Kansas state, not the city.
With the two states separated by relatively little, the developments in Kansas state have simply made it more likely that Missouri will launch sports betting sooner rather than later. However, while Rep Houx took the chance of this special session to put forward his bill, there was never really a possibility that it would be bet on, given the need to deal with tax issues amid a potential cost of living crisis. That setback may be only temporary, though, as representatives have the chance to pre-file bills in December for discussion and voting in 2023.
It seems likely that sports betting will eventually be passed, although it is not possible to put a likely time on it just yet. Missouri lawmakers have debated similar legislation before, with the majority seeming to support legalization, but the bill was filibustered out. Pre-filing for 2023 would seem to be a substantial defence against the same happening again, and when a bill comes before the legislature for a decisive vote, it seems probable that not only will a vote happen, but that it will pass.
The biggest concern for Missouri lawmakers is that, with sports betting already legal across the border in Kansas, there is the chance for people who live close to the border to use sports betting services, and that this could represent money lost to the public purse which could then be spent across the border. That’s a substantial argument that can be made by advocates of sports betting within the state, which will not want to fall behind its close neighbor in terms of infrastructure spending and popular public programs.
No fewer than five states in close proximity to Missouri have already approved bills for sports betting, and for some time the sense has been that the state’s adoption of a similar bill is a matter of when, not if. As early as this month, we could learn exactly how soon “when” might be.