While it looks like the issue of legalizing Missouri sports betting is officially dead for 2022, the matter could be one of the first things the state legislature takes on when it reconvenes in 2023. Leaders of both chambers of the Missouri legislature shared comments to that effect.
To finally achieve that end, the legislature will have to reach a compromise on the related issue that has proven insurmountable so far. It’s unclear if either side of the issue is ready to cede any ground in 2023, though.
Legislature commits to Missouri sports betting
In a press conference last week, Missouri Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden and the state’s next Speaker of the House, Dean Plocher, both stated they plan to prioritize legislation on sports betting in the body’s next regular session. That begins on Jan. 4, 2023.
Their support should go a long way to at least getting a vote on the floor on at least one bill. The state’s governor, Mike Parsons, also supports the legislature addressing the issue in the next regular session.
In the last regular session, several different bills that all sought to legalize sports betting in Missouri at least got committee hearings.
One bill, HB4, actually was approved by the Missouri House and cleared a Senate committee, too. It never came up for a vote on the full Senate floor, however. The story behind that is not really about sports betting itself.
Is more Missouri gambling a possibility?
There was no real poison pill in HB4 that prevented it from seeing a vote in the Missouri Senate. The problem that prevented its presence on that docket was actually about what the bill did not contain.
A solid contingent of Missouri Senators has been resolute in not supporting any gambling expansion that didn’t include the explicit legalization of “grey machines” in the state. Some businesses in Missouri currently offer slot-like video lottery terminals for customers to play, although their legality is questionable. HB4 did not address VLTs in any way.
Casinos in the state are a powerful lobbying body and have resisted a regulated system for VLTs in Missouri. Thus, so far, legislators on both sides of the debate refuse to compromise, and sports betting is on hold as a result.
Could 2023 be different from previous sessions?
However, there’s been a big change in the status quo since the last regular session ended in Missouri. Recently, Kansas sports betting launched, making it so that six of the eight states that border Missouri now offer legal options for sports betting.
Kansas has special relevance among those six, however, because the Kansas City metro strides the border between the two states. It’s also one of the most populous cities in Missouri. That puts more pressure on Missouri’s legislature to get something done soon. The state is losing potential revenue in missed opportunity costs as Kansas City residents cross the border and place bets in Kansas.
Whether that will be enough for a compromise on the VLT regulation remains to be seen. What seems certain now, though, is that they’ll have a chance to do so.