Missouri lawmakers are making one last effort to pass Missouri sports betting legislation before adjourning Friday.
Sen. Denny Hoskins has stood in the way of Missouri sports betting passage in recent years. So House lawmakers attached Missouri sports betting language to a bill Hoskins does want passed. The House then sent the bill back to the Senate for concurrence.
Rep. Dan Houx, sponsor of the Missouri sports betting bill passed by the House, offered the amendment to SB 92.
If Hoskins wants his bill providing benefits for rural businesses in Missouri, he will need to accept Missouri sports betting along with it.
Hoskins didn’t appear receptive to the House amendments in comments made to PlayUSA. He questioned the legality of the changes, citing a Hammerschmidt v. Boone County (1994) Missouri Supreme Court ruling on broadening the scope of a bill through amendments.
“The House appears to have almost loved my bill to death. The addition of several amendments unrelated to creating jobs in rural Missouri creates a Hammerschmidt issue and would be overthrown by our judicial system.”
Putting Hoskins to the test
Leadership in both chambers made it a priority to get Missouri sports betting passed this year. But Hoskins threatened to filibuster a Missouri sports betting discussion on the Senate floor earlier this session after colleagues voted down an amendment to include video lottery terminal regulation.
Hoskins has long sought to regulate video lottery terminals as a way to generate revenue for veterans’ homes and cemeteries. Missouri casinos want sports betting but oppose state approval of slot-like gaming machines at bars and convenience stores. Hoskins has tried to force casinos to accept VLTs if they want sports betting.
The House passed sports betting legislation last year and this year. And Senate leadership also set Missouri sports betting legalization as a priority. But Hoskins, the most senior member of the Senate, has blocked passage of sports betting without VLTs.
The House struck back by amending SB 92. Houx, who has tried to work with Hoskins to find a compromise, expressed his frustration while proposing the amendment on the House floor:
“I just want to show the citizens of Missouri that the Missouri House does care and listen to them about sports gambling. And this is just another opportunity for us to place this on another bill. Unfortunately, the other side has had a little bit of issues with this. We’re just trying to make it a little bit better and maybe give it a little hope and opportunity for our citizens of Missouri.”
Hoskins, in his comments to PlayUSA, responded to the hijacking of his bill:
“[Cardinals President] Bill DeWitt and the bill sponsor both have publicly said they believe sportsbook should pass on its own and don’t believe other gaming legislation fits on a sportsbook-only bill. I’m sure they certainly would also agree with me that sportsbook legislation doesn’t fit in bills relating to bringing more jobs and economic development to rural Missouri.”
Changes made to Missouri sports betting language
Houx changed the title of SB 92 to indicate it is a bill on taxes rather than tax credits. As the amendment raises taxes for the state from sports betting, he said it fit the overarching bill.
The amendment language included two changes from his bill passed by the House. Both raise more revenue for the state.
One increased the tax rate for sportsbook operator revenue from 10% to 15%. Another increased the renewal fees for an interactive sports betting license from $125,000 to $325,000.
Another change added language requested by players’ associations of major sports leagues to share with them any relevant information.
The amendment passed by a voice vote. Then the House passed the SB 92 by a vote of 83-65-7, sending it back to the Senate.
Choice for Hoskins
Hoskins is now in a position where he could have to filibuster his own bill, losing one of his legislative priorities.
It’s unlikely a conference committee made up of multiple members of the House and Senate, chosen by leadership, would come up with a bill compromise to Hoskins’ liking.
Houx seemed to admit on the floor that this was more of a statement than a longshot play he thought could actually work.
“It’s a passion that I have,” Houx said. “This is an opportunity to think of a place we can go with this. I know it’s not going to make everyone happy.”