Published: March 23, 2022

Sports betting inches forward in Missouri

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a plan to bring sports betting to the state.

Backed by the state’s professional sports teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Blues, the plan would allow people to legally wager on college and professional sports for the first time.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Rep. Dan Houx, R-Warrensburg, who is sponsoring the measure along with Rep. Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peters.

The plan, which needs a final vote in the Legislature’s lower chamber, calls for an 8% tax on wagers, which would generate an estimated $10 million annually based on a fiscal analysis by House analysts.

The state’s 13 casinos, as well as the sports venues, would have betting windows, but people also could use their mobile devices to place bets on games via websites such as FanDuel and DraftKings.

“We are very pleased to see the progress with the proposed sports gaming bill in the Missouri House today,” Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III said.

The push for sports betting was put on a fast track in January, when Missouri’s pro sports teams and representatives of its gambling casinos announced they had reached an agreement to lobby together to have the state join 32 others, including Illinois, that have legalized wagering on competitive events.

Supporters said the law would allow Missouri to begin capturing revenue from bettors who are going across the state’s borders.

“Missourians are doing it right now, and we’re not getting the benefit,” said House Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann, R-O’Fallon.

“All this does is take something off the black market and puts it on the white market,” said Rep. Wes Rogers, D-Kansas City.

Along with the Cardinals and the Blues, other pro teams that lobbied for the measure include the St. Louis City soccer club, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals .

Until a 2018 court case, full-scale sports betting was illegal in all states except Nevada. Some states moved quickly to get sports betting and its tax proceeds on the books. Illinois legalized it in June 2019.

“The Supreme Court says we can do this,” said Rep. Jason Chipman, R-Steelville.

The effort has been stalled in the Legislature for four years over disagreements on how to rid the state of unregulated, illegal slot machines that have flooded gas stations, truck stops and bars in recent years.

That could prove to be a significant hurdle in the Senate, where Senate President Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, has pushed hard to eliminate the slot machines.

DeWitt said the Cardinals “remain hopeful and cautiously optimistic for continued progress in the House and also in the Missouri Senate, and we look forward to continuing our ongoing efforts to work closely with the Missouri legislators to pass sports wagering legislation during this session.”

During debate, lawmakers added an amendment to the proposal calling for a study of compulsive gambling.

“With an industry that is bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars, this is what we need to look at,” said Rep. Ben Baker, R-Neosho.

Baker said the study would set a baseline to help officials determine how much should be spent to treat people with gambling addictions.

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