Six of the eight states that border Missouri now have legal online sports betting available, leaving the remaining illegal status of sports betting in Missouri as more of an outlier than ever. One state legislature member is giving the body the opportunity to address that.
The Missouri legislature is currently in a special session and considering bills on several issues. There’s reason to doubt that the short time frame of the special session will be enough to resolve issues that have held up Missouri sports betting legalization in the state for years.
Missouri sports betting bill presses issue once again
Rep. Dan Houx introduced HB4 on Wednesday and, on Thursday, the Missouri House assigned the bill to the chamber’s Emerging Issues Committee. That committee is set to meet next on Monday, Sept. 19, at 2 p.m. EST. Currently, there is no set agenda for the meeting.
HB4 is a comprehensive bill that would set up a regulated system for in-person and online sports betting in the state. It is essentially a copy of the bill Houx filed during the last regular session in many ways.
For example, it would not allow Missouri sports teams like the Kansas City Chiefs or St. Louis Blues to open retail sportsbooks at their stadiums. However, it would allow them to partner with an online sportsbook operator licensed in the state and establish a district around their venues. Within the boundaries of those districts, only that designated online sportsbook would be allowed to accept wagers.
Each of the state’s casinos could contract with up to three online sportsbooks under the bill’s terms, creating room for nearly 40 different online sports betting choices. The bill does not include any special restrictions on betting on college sports and it does not require bettors to register for their online sportsbook accounts in person.
Should it become law, it could set up Missouri to compete with its neighbors. That’s the big question, however.
Will this bill actually see significant progress?
In the last regular session, Houx’s similar bill cleared the Missouri House and made it to the floor for a vote in the state’s Senate. That was when the issue that has held up every attempt to legalize sports betting in Missouri surfaced yet again. The vote never happened.
Some businesses in the state, like convenience stores and truck stops, currently operate what are called video lottery terminals (VLTs) in the state. The legality of VLTs, similar to slot machines in casinos, has been the subject of debate in the legislature.
So far, enough members of the state legislature have refused to support any gambling expansion that doesn’t include the legalization of the VLTs to hold sports betting hostage essentially. It’s unclear whether the four months that have passed since the end of the last regular session have changed that.
HB4 currently does not include any provisions related to VLTs. Thus, it’s likely to face this obstacle again, barring any amendments. There has been one significant event since the end of the last session, though.
Could Kansas launch change the conversation?
Legal online sports betting launched in Kansas on Sept. 1, and since then, GeoComply says it has blocked tens of thousands of attempts by Missourians to use the Kansas sportsbooks illegally. The Kansas City metro, one of the state’s strongest population centers, strides the Missouri-Kansas border.
Only Kentucky and Oklahoma, among Missouri’s neighbors, now lack options for regulated online sports betting. The launch of Kansas is especially impactful because of Kansas City’s prominence in the state when it comes to sports.
The Kansas City Chiefs and Royals play their home games on the Missouri side of the line. Additionally, the Kansas City Current plans to open a stadium on the Missouri side despite currently playing matches at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas.
Thus, there’s probably never been greater pressure on Missouri to get this done. The session is currently set to end on Sept. 22, so there isn’t a lot of time for legislators to finally reach a potential compromise on VLT governance. Given the track record of this body in previous sessions on this issue, that happening in just over a week’s time would be quite miraculous.