Missouri Casinos, Pro Sports Teams Throw Combined Weight Behind State Senators’ Betting Bills

Written By Derek Helling on January 21, 2022 - Last Updated on March 7, 2022
Casino, Pro Sports Team, and Sports Betting Changes In Missouri Bill

There are now clear frontrunners in the competition of gambling expansion bills in the Missouri legislature. The new favorite owes that status to the weight of the state’s casinos and Missouri pro sports teams.

The coalition is full of obvious beneficiaries should the bills become law in their current forms. Even this broad support does not guarantee that they will pass without some substantial changes, though.

Missouri pro sports teams, casinos pick their favorites

Parties who operate brick-and-mortar casinos and the various sports entertainment enterprises in MO are powerful lobbying arms in this regard on their own. Now, they’re throwing their combined weight behind Missouri sports betting legalization.

There are 14 retail casinos in MO, split between seven operators. Caesars and Penn National are the largest of those, each controlling three MO casinos. Sports franchises taking part in this coalition are the:

  • Kansas City Chiefs
  • Kansas City Current
  • Kansas City Royals
  • St. Louis Blues
  • St. Louis Cardinals
  • St. Louis SC

The bills that these parties support for legalization are currently awaiting committee assignments in the MO Senate. They are SB1046 and SB1061. Companion bills in the MO House should be forthcoming soon.

So why have these parties chosen to put their muscle behind these proposals over others? It really isn’t that hard to decipher when you look at the language of both bills.

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What’s in it for the sports teams?

There are some different wrinkles to the bills that would benefit enterprises like the Current. First off, each of the six sports teams would be eligible to apply for a mobile sports betting license. Such a license would not allow them to offer in-person wagering.

Rather, they would essentially get a “skin” they could give out at their discretion. The operating partner who receives that skin would enjoy a perk of an exclusivity zone around each licensee’s stadium. Both bills set the parameters of such districts at a radius of 400 yards around the stadiums.

So, for example, say at least one of these bills becomes law as they are right now. Further, suppose that the Chiefs gave their skin to BetMGM Sportsbook. Everywhere within a 400-yard radius of Arrowhead Stadium, BetMGM would be the only sportsbook you could legally wager with.

This would create a new revenue stream for the teams and give books like BetMGM a path into MO despite the fact that it has no brick-and-mortar casinos in the state. There are some wins for gambling companies already in the state in this bill, too.

How about the current Missouri casino operators?

In this arrangement, these companies would be giving up some of the exclusivity they currently enjoy when it comes to gambling in MO. Not only would sports teams get a foothold but as already mentioned, new competition would enter the state.

So why make that move? That’s more about what isn’t in these bills than what is in them. Yes, the bills would let them offer in-person wagering at their casino properties. Thus, they would effectively still maintain exclusivity on retail betting.

The bills also would give them three online skins for each property. That would give them a significant piece of the online action. There’s an even bigger thing to note here, though.

Neither bill creates a regulated system for video lottery terminals. VLT operators have been lobbying state legislators for years to create a legal framework for the “grey” machines, which currently have a small but disputed presence in MO.

Brick-and-mortar casino operators have resisted those efforts, however, arguing such a system would harm their businesses. In past legislative terms, this issue has effectively sidelined progress on all gambling expansion. There’s no guarantee that wouldn’t continue.

Will casino, sports alliance be sufficient to override VLT interests?

It’s extremely early in the legislative session, so the room is still hard to read. There is likely no arguing that these combined forces carry with them a lot of influence in the state. However, the VLT lobbying forces have proven similarly strong in the past as well.

It’s uncertain whether casinos and their allies would stick to their guns enough to pass on sports betting if it means VLTs won’t happen. That will probably depend on how much of a threat the casinos see the VLTs as.

For certain, none of the other gambling expansion bills currently in the MO Senate enjoy the public support that SB1046 and SB1061 do. If both/either become law, casinos and sports teams in MO will be quite pleased.

Photo by Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. 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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