Missouri Senate Kills Sports Betting Bill

Ameristar Casino and Argosy Casino in Missouri
Proponents of sports betting in the Show-Me State hoped that the Senate would legalize the practice. Unfortunately, both bills under review died on the floor last night. Part of the reason they did not pass is because of a prolonged filibuster by two senators.

The main bill that would have legalized sports betting was HB 2502. It included another bill, HB 2556, and was referred to the Senate last month. If it had passed, sports betting could have started this fall. However, opponents of the bill question the tax structure and the lack of VLTs in the proposed legislation.

With the bill failing to pass, it seems unlikely that Missouri will legalize sports betting this session. The last day of the current session is May 13th. There are other sports betting bills that still have legs, but legislators are running out of time. If no bill is passed, Missouri risks falling behind neighboring states, namely neighboring Kansas, in the sports betting industry.

What Was House Bills 2502?

The potential sports betting bill up for debate came from the House. It was titled House Bill 2502 and it would have legalized sports betting starting in August. HB 2502 was first introduced in the House in January. The timing would have lined up with the start of the NFL preseason. Missouri Senators had been reviewing the bill since the end of March.

HB 2502 would have allowed for more than 50 sportsbooks to be licensed in that state. 13 of Missouri’s riverboat casinos would have been eligible for sports betting licenses. Another 39 licenses would have been made available for online operators. Essentially, each licensed riverboat casino could have partnered with up to three online operators.

To obtain a license, retail casinos would have had to pay an application fee of $150,000. They also would have a $125,000 renewal fee for the license. HB 2502 called for an 8% tax on sports betting revenue. The bill would have also allowed owners of sports teams to apply to operate interactive sports wagering platforms at stadiums.

Debate Continues on Sports Betting

There appear to have been two main issues that doomed HB 2502 in the Missouri Senate. For one, the low tax rate on sports betting revenue was a red flag for some senators. Missouri taxes gambling revenue at 21%, so the proposed 8% would bring in significantly less revenue for the state.

The other issue that prevented the bill from passing was the lack of VLT language in the bill. VLTs, or Video Lottery Terminals, were a deal-breaker for some senators. Namely, Missouri Senator Denny Hoskins. Hoskins had promised to filibuster any sports betting bill that did not include VLTs.

Senator Hoskins kept true to his word. Yesterday, along with Senator Karla May, Hoskins filibustered for four hours. The chamber was forced to adjourn at 9:30 pm local time per chamber rules. With no vote taking place, HB 2502 effectively died on the floor. It has since been placed on the Senate’s informal calendar.

Is Missouri Falling Behind in Sports Betting?

The lack of progress is more than just disappointing for sports bettors. Without a sports betting bill, the Show-Me State risks falling behind its neighbors. Missouri lawmakers were racing against their counterparts in Kansas to legalize sports betting. The race was about more than just an interstate rivalry.

Legal sports betting has been a huge economic boost for many states in the US. Currently, several states that surround Missouri, such as Illinois and Arkansas, already allow it. The longer Missouri goes without legal sports betting, the more other states will profit from Missouri sports bettors.

There has also been chatter recently that the Kansas City Chiefs may move to the Sunflower State. If Kansas legalizes sports betting, it could be just another reason for the team to move across state lines. A move would take years to finish. However, once the wheels are in motion, they are hard to stop. Missouri already lost one NFL team, the Rams, back in 2016.

Conclusion

After weeks of deliberation, the Missouri Senate failed to pass HB 2502. The bill would have allowed for sports betting in the Show-Me State starting later this year. Despite support for the bill, a filibuster prevented a vote before the chamber adjourned. Now, legislators must scramble to get a new bill passed before May 13th when the session ends.

If Missouri fails to pass a bill this session, it will continue to lose potential sports betting revenue to its neighbors. Currently, Missouri bettors must travel to other states, like Illinois, to place their sports wagers. Kansas could also pass a sports betting bill this year, which would only create more issues for Missouri.