2022 looks to be another year full of optimism and prospects to change the legal gambling landscape in Missouri. Just like in previous years, it looks like there will be multiple versions of a Missouri sports betting bill with variant clauses that might sideline all of them.
Among the prevailing issues is the state’s legalization of “gray machines.” That’s an issue that legislators will likely have to agree on one way or another for sports betting legalization to occur in the new year.
One Missouri sports betting bill fully revealed
Although two other legislators have pre-filed bills, Rep. Phil Christofanelli is the only one to have fully filed his contender. HB 1666 does not yet have a committee designation. It does strongly resemble past pieces of legislation toward the same end, though.
The bill would allow the state’s riverboat casinos to apply for retail sports betting licenses. After contracting for market access with the same gaming facilities, online sportsbooks could also apply for licenses.
The bill as it reads currently does not specify how many skins each MO casino would get. The MO Gaming Commission, which regulates the riverboats, would oversee the body. It does not include the state lottery in legal sports betting in any way.
Besides containing the “fandoms” of Kansas City and St. Louis sports teams, MO would be an attractive market for sportsbooks for another reason should Christofanelli’s bill become law. It would match neighboring Iowa and Nevada for national-low tax rates on revenue, set at just 6.75%.
Christofanelli’s bill doesn’t address the legality of video lottery terminals in MO either way. That’s one thing that will likely have to change for his bill to become law in the coming year.
Sports betting and VLTs likely intertwined in MO
In previous years, the chief obstacle to legalizing sports betting has been lobbying interests in the state legislature that have been unwilling to do so without also enacting a regulatory system for video lottery terminals. It’s unlikely that will change in 2022.
Currently, those machines are technically illegal, but enforcement measures against them in the state are inconsistent. For that reason, their prevalence continues to grow at places like convenience stores and truck stops around the state.
Additionally, their prominence has grown in Jefferson City as well. In past years, they’ve been able to successfully lobby enough of a voting block to essentially hold sports betting legalization “hostage” until VLT regulation becomes part of any bill.
Proponents of non-action on VLTs have resisted such frameworks because they fear authorizing them would cannibalize the state’s riverboat casinos. If both camps stick to their guns in 2022, another year could pass without action on any issue.
At this point, though, it looks like the debate will come up again. Christofanelli’s bill looks like where that conversation will begin in 2022.