Missouri sports betting has been the subject of attention in Jefferson City when it comes to gambling for years. And although some of the legislators in the state are eager to tackle the issue in 2023, Missouri’s governor doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to address the situation.
Gov. Mike Parson gave an interview on the topic in which he maintained his overall disinterested demeanor.
While the good news for proponents of legalization is that Parson does not seem opposed to the idea, the other side of that coin is that Parson is unlikely to light a fire under the legislature to make it happen in the next session.
Parson’s continued neutral comments on the subject also make it hard to determine what kinds of gambling expansion he would support.
Parson is leaving Missouri sports betting to the legislature
Parson spoke on this matter with Emily Manley of Ozarks First. Despite the fact that six of the eight states that border Missouri offer some form of legal wagering on sports. With online betting legal in five of those six states, Parson made no commitments to press the issue himself.
“All of a sudden, people can go over there and do their thing on that and Missouri can’t,” Parson said. “We’ll see how it plays out but that’s the General Assembly’s thing.”
Technically, Parson made a statement of fact. Missouri’s constitution does not give the state’s governor unilateral authority to expand legal gambling. To Parson’s point, the legislature can take that on, but he could have a more active role at the same time.
Governors in other states, like Massachusetts’ Charlie Baker, have been some of the loudest proponents of sports betting legalization. Recently, Parson took what could be read as an action to the contrary. Parson declined to include a sports betting bill in the agenda of a September special session of the legislature that he called.
There’s no guarantee that the bill would have progressed but due to Parson’s exclusion, it didn’t even see a committee debate. Parson pointed out that the legislature can address the issue in its next regular session that begins in January.
Some of the state’s legislators have already committed to doing just that. However, Parson didn’t commit to whether he would support such a bill should it reach his desk.
Will Parson support a gambling expansion bill in 2023?
The answer to the question of Parson’s support will likely depend on exactly what such a bill entails.
“That decision will be mine when it hits my desk but until then, you have to let the process work out and see what happens,” Parson said.
That process will include lawmakers trying to finally get over the obstacle that has blocked the legalization of sports betting for years; what to do with “grey machines” in Missouri.
A significant portion of Missouri’s senators has pushed for legislation to explicitly legalize the video lottery terminals that some Missouri businesses are currently offering to players despite their operation being of questionable legality.
At the same time, Missouri’s casinos have resisted that notion, arguing that expansion would harm their businesses. Both sides of the issue have tied sports betting to their preferred course of action. So far, the inability to reach a compromise on VLTs has essentially held sports betting hostage.
Parson seems similarly unsure of whether the next session will finally see an end to that roadblock. Parson said:
“I think it’s going to be one of those things that’s coming when the day comes. The day is going to happen but that needs to go through the legislative process, and it goes in there year in and year out.”
Missouri sports betting definitely does not have an enemy in the governor’s seat. However, it doesn’t have much of an ally there right now either.