JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Since the start of the NFL season back in September, there’s been roughly 8.7 million attempts to place a sports bet in Missouri, according to GeoComply.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say that Missouri is playing a losing hand after not legalizing sports betting last year. What are the odds this session? The House took the first step Wednesday night towards making it legal to place wagers on college and professional sports teams.
Just days before super Sunday, representatives in the House Emerging Issues Committee are talking sports betting.
“Anybody right now can download an app on their phone and participate in sports wagering in the State of Missouri,” Rep. Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peters, said. “They are just doing so illegally.”
Christofanelli is a sponsor of one of the sports wagering bills heard in front of the committee Wednesday night. The other bill is sponsored by Rep. Dan Houx, R-Warrensburg.
“It’s happening all across our state,” Christofanelli said. “The problem with that is there is no regulatory oversight. There is no protection for compulsive gambling on these illegal apps and the revenue is going overseas to places and countries that may not have our best interests in mind.”
Just before the NFL season started in September, sports wagering went live in Kansas. Within months, the Sunflower State brought in more than $10 million in revenue.
“Our neighbors in Kansas can do it, our neighbors in Illinois can do it, we are literally surrounded by folks who can participate in this industry,” Rep. Ashley Aune, D-Kansas City, said. “My constituents want this.”
During the committee hearing, representatives from the Kansas City Royals, Chiefs and Current and St. Louis City SC, the Cardinals and the Blues testified in favor of the legislation, but the Players Association isn’t fully on board.
“We regret the position that we are in because we certainly support sports wagering legislation,” general counsel for the Players Association John Dalton said. “We have several unique concerns or issues that impact the players.”
The association wants to make sure professional players are protected from fans who might be upset over losing bets.
“We would like an expansive definition of ‘covered persons,’ to include not just the players but their families and the people affiliated with the players and the teams,” general counsel for the NHL Players Association Steve Fehr said.
House Bills 556 and 581 would allow anyone 21 and older to download a sports wagering app on their phone or place a bet in a casino. Data from GeoComply, who oversees the Kansas sports books, shows 136,000 transactions from Missouri were blocked during the AFC Championship game in Kansas City last month.
“There are 36 states plus the District of Columbia that have adopted and passed sports betting,” Mike Winter with the Missouri Gaming Commission said. “There is a good history going on around the country of best practices and we do think that these bills have a lot of those things contained in it.
The legislation would not allow betting on high school sports or on individual college athletes. It would also give the rights to major sports teams to control the advertising of sports books around their stadiums.
“Kansas and Illinois, as well as Arkansas and Iowa and Tennessee all have legal sports betting and are making millions of dollars every month from it so we think it’s time that Missouri pass this bill,” Sean Ostrow with Sports Better Alliance said.
With a 10% tax on net revenue, sports betting is estimated to bring in more than $20 million for the state annually. Revenue generated from sports wagering would go to the state’s education fund. The bill also earmarks $500,000 to help with compulsive gambling problems.
The legislation still needs to be voted on by the committee, but Chairman Rep. Bill Hardwick, R-Waynesville, did not say when that would happen.