Missouri House Committee Reports Casts Sports Betting Legalization In Favorable Light

Posted on December 6, 2019

The legalization of sports betting in Missouri could be one step closer to reality. If a Missouri committee report carries any weight, the wheels could start moving in the next legislative term.

The Missouri House’s Special Interim Committee on Gaming submitted its report to the state’s Speaker of the House Elijah Haahr on Thursday, Dec. 5. The findings, which are the result of several hearings, look favorably upon legal sports betting in Missouri.

What’s in the Missouri committee report to the Speaker

Over the course of several months, the committee heard testimony from many individuals representing gaming industry stakeholders. Those witnesses ranged from video lottery terminal operators to Major League Baseball.

The report summarizes the testimony of all the witnesses. For the Speaker, however, the pertinent information is the findings.

The committee split its findings into two parts. The second part covers the committee’s recommendations involving video gaming machines that aren’t regulated by the state but nonetheless exist in Missouri.

The first part should interest Missourians who wish to legally bet on sports. The opening sentence of the findings regarding sports betting makes the opinion of the committee clear.

“The committee views the legalization of sports betting as a legitimate opportunity to increase state revenues and to direct such revenues in a manner similar to the Missouri Lottery and casino gaming so that the bulk will help to fund education.”

The committee members see sports betting as a natural extension or the next step in legal gambling in Missouri. The potential to capture revenue is a big point of attraction for the committee as well.

While the committee stresses a need to protect casinos and the state lottery from cannibalization, it also emphasizes that if Missouri doesn’t legalize sports betting, it could lose revenue to neighboring states. That’s a legitimate concern, as legal sports betting is already live in Iowa plus Arkansas and Illinois have plans to launch soon as well.

From there, the findings go on to some recommendations about specific tenants of future law. Those recommendations are basic and non-controversial.

Recommendations for Missouri sports betting policy in the report’s findings

The findings go on to emphasize strong regulations to enforce a minimum age for wagering. The committee is confident that existing industry protocols provide a solution for the potential problem of underage gambling as well.

Another recommendation involves ensuring people who bet on sports in Missouri are actually in Missouri when they do so. Again, the committee expressed confidence in the procedures currently used by sportsbook operators in this regard.

Finally, the committee expressed that it is “cognizant of the issues posed by sports betting to both professional sports organizations and players.” It recommends the state address those issues in legislation but provided no further advice as to what that legislation should or should not entail.

One of the items of utmost interest for Missourians is whether they will be able to access sportsbooks on mobile devices. The recommendations touch lightly upon that subject, however.

The committee expressed interest in online wagering and highlighted a desire to create a level playing field. Whether that means opening the market up to several mobile sportsbook operators or ensuring that brick-and-mortar sportsbooks aren’t dominated by online competitors is unclear.

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Uncertainty about the path forward from here

Another item in the findings expresses uncertainty about which government agency is best suited to regulate sports betting in Missouri. The findings mention the state lottery and the state’s gaming commission as possibilities.

As far as a starting point for regulations goes, the committee points towards the daily fantasy industry. A framework that mirrors Missouri’s regulations on DFS could work for sports betting as well.

How quickly any framework could develop is anyone’s guess right now. No legislators have pre-filed legalization bills for the next session, which begins in January.

The pertinent matter for the committee is funding for education. While it doesn’t perceive an issue in that regard, it highlights sports betting as a way to increase that in the Show-Me State.

There is a long road ahead for legalization and this report is no guarantee. The positive attitude of the committee is a good sign, however.

Derek Helling Avatar
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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