Big Push for Sports Betting in Missouri

The New Year is less than a month away, and in the US state of Missouri, one group of politicians have made it clear that they think 2021 should be the year of sports betting legalization in the state. 

Senators in Missouri have outlined their plans for making sports betting a reality in the state through the filing of no less than three bills that would legalize sports betting in the state legislature, which can be heard during the 2021 session. The three bills come after a 2020 legislative session in which no fewer than six sports betting bills were considered in the state legislature. 

Senator Denny Hoskins put forward SB 18, while Sens. Tony Luetkemeyer (SB 217) and Caleb Rowden (SB 256) also put forward their proposals. 

Race Against Time

One of the key motivators for the Senators in the state is the fact that sports betting customers and potentially millions of dollars in tax revenue are heading out of the state to bet. Four of the states that border Missouri: Arkansas, Iowa, Tennessee, and Illinois currently have functioning sports betting sectors, and every month of delay means that much-needed revenue disappears across state borders, in addition to the illegal market for sports betting. 

So it was no surprise to see three bills filed so quickly after the start of the pre-filing session in the state, which came into effect on December 1. 

Identical Bills, Identical Problems

All of the bills put forward for consideration in 2021 are identical to proposals made last year. That may be positive, but it may also have negative aspects. The good news for proponents of sports betting is that politicians in the state legislature will already be thoroughly familiar with the details. The bad news, obviously, is that all three of the bills have already been rejected. 

Two of the bills, in particular, had notable problems. Hoskins’ bill, which was listed as SB 567 during the 2020 session, proposed legalizing sports betting online, as well as sports betting on casino boats and parlay betting through lottery retailers. The new version of the bill proposes an application fee of $25,000 and a tax on revenue of 9%. Although gambling operators would be delighted with those figures, they may be less enthusiastic about the integrity fee of 0.25% that the bill proposes should be paid to sports organizations, as well as the use of official league data for live betting. 

Luetkemeyer’s bill is similar, proposing sports betting legality at casinos and online, with a $10,000 application fee and tax revenue of 6.25%. But this bill has a higher integrity fee of 0.75%, along with the same official data requirement as Hoskins’ proposals, as well as a ban on prop betting on college sports, measures that are likely to meet considerable opposition from the industry. 

Best Hope

The best hope for Missouri sports betting legalization in 2021 is likely to be Rowden’s bill, which is a continuation of HB 2318 that was put forward by Rep. Phil Christofanelli last year. This bill would also legalize sports betting at casinos and through online methods. It proposes an application fee for operators of $50,000 and a 6.75% revenue tax, along with no integrity fee. It seems likely that this bill will be welcomed by betting companies. Whether that means it will pass remains to be seen. 

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