Missouri Lawmakers Push Legal Sports Betting in 2022 Agenda

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A new year signals new attempts to bring legal sports betting to states that have yet to join this growing list. In the heart of the booming Midwest market, certain Missouri lawmakers believe that 2022 is the year to get it done.

Support for legalizing sports betting in the Show Me State continues to grow. However, there is likely to be various forms of legislation introduced which could muddy the water. With all the different views on how the sports betting industry should take shape, all the proposals may once again stall.

One of the big issues is the expansion of gambling beyond just sports betting. Legalizing video lottery terminals (VLT’s) known as “gray machines” is often tied to the same legislation promoting legal bets on sports.

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Current Missouri Legislative Efforts

Heading into the 2022 legislative session, as many as three bills on the matter have been pre-filed. State Rep. Phil Christofanelli is behind one of those efforts.

House Bill 1666 is awaiting a committee designation. The wording of this piece of legislation closely resembles past efforts to more legal sports betting forward. Retail sportsbook licenses would be tied to the state’s riverboat casinos.

Missouri online sports betting would also be tied to these casinos through partnerships with mobile sportsbook operators. The bill does not specify how many online betting skins each casino would be able to operate.

The sports betting industry would be regulated by the Missouri Gaming Commission as opposed to the state lottery. The big draw for sportsbook operators would be the low tax rate of 6.75%. This matches the current tax rate of Iowa sportsbooks and Nevada sportsbooks.

HB 1666 does not address the issue of legalizing VLT’s which could be a good thing. However, that is still an issue that will need to be addressed one way or the other. Many state lawmakers want to maintain the connection between sports betting and VLT’s in any legalization efforts.

The Past Connection of Sports Betting and VLT’s

One of the main reasons why Missouri has failed to pass any gaming expansion laws is the lack of compromise among its state legislature. Sports betting has been tied to VLT’s in the past. Lobbying interests have been able to force the hand of state lawmakers over this issue.

Currently, VLT machines are illegal but they remain rather prevalent across the state. Past enforcement issues have failed for the most part. The next best solution is to legalize these gaming devices so they can be regulated and taxed.

The situation gets even more sticky with the potential of legal VLT’s cannibalizing the profits of Missouri’s riverboat casinos.

One hotbed for this issue is in Jefferson City. A successful lobbying effort in the past has been able to tie legal sports betting with the legalization of video lottery terminals. This lobbying effort has been powerful enough to derail the entire legislative process in the past.

Most parties involved in the matter are confident that this issue will once again take center stage when negotiations start back up in 2022.

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