JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Sports betting is up for discussion again at the Missouri Statehouse, but unless the governor expands his call for special session, passing the legislation could be a long shot.
The roadblock lies within Gov. Mike Parson’s call for special session which is about tax cuts and reauthorizing tax credits for farmers. Rep. Dan Houx, R-Warrensburg, said he filed the sports betting legislation more to keep the conversation ongoing.
“It’s definitely to keep it in the forefront to show Missourians at least the House is trying to do everything that we promised them we would do,” Houx said Monday.
The House Emerging Issues’ committee met Monday to discuss Houx’s bill after the General Assembly failed to approve the legislation earlier this year during regular session.
“My neighbors are very upset that we have not gotten this done in Missouri,” said Rep. Ashley Aune, D-Kansas City.
All of Missouri’s surround states have legalized sports betting. This month, sports wagering went live in Kansas days before the NFL season started.
“Since Sept. 1-16, 340,000 bets were tried to be placed in Missouri that did not go through,” Houx said. “The Thursday night Chiefs’ game, there were 48,000 bets. Missouri is losing out on revenue not only at the extreme of the tax, but we have people going to Kansas, Iowa, Illinois and Arkansas.”
Missourians aren’t the only ones who want to place bets on players and teams, the professionals want it too.
“This is what our fans want,” said Chris Roepe, a lobbyist for the St. Louis Cardinals. “We get yelled at because they think we are geofencing them out when they come to Busch Stadium for a ballgame. It’s time to get this done.”
Representatives for the Royals, Chiefs, Kansas City Current, St. Louis City SC and the Blues also testified in favor.
According to the Kansas Lottery, in the first two weeks of sports betting in the Sunflower State, 2.4 million bets were placed. The company GeoComply said 16,000 people tried to make a bet in Missouri the first day sports betting was legal in Kansas but were blocked. Of those people, 60% of them were in Kansas City, Missouri.
“I think I’ve made clear my disdain towards the state west of us called Kansas based on my prior life,” said Rep. Kurtis Gregory, R-Marshall, and former University of Missouri football player. “But here’s one where we actually want to be like Kansas because they have something passed that many of our constituents have talked to us about.”
Houx’s legislation, House Bill 4, is similar to what was before lawmakers this spring, allowing those 21 and older to place wagers on college and professional teams, but would impose a 10% tax rate on sports bets, estimated to bring in $16 million to the state annually.
A big point of contention this past session was what to do with video lottery games like slot machines. Lawmakers call them “grey” machines. These slot machines contain no consumer protections, and it says that someone will win two out of every 100 times, but there are no laws regulating that. It’s estimated that there are 20,000 “grey” machines throughout the state, but Houx’s bill does not include any language to address it.
The Missouri Gaming Association represents the state’s 13 casinos. Compared to other states, Kansas’ tax rate on sports bets is 10%, Illinois’ rate is 17%, Nebraska and Tennessee are 20% and Arkansas is between 13% and 20%.
“If we can get sports betting done, is the investment we can make back into our properties to attract folks to those sports books as well as other amenities that we’ve got in our casinos and hotels,” said Mike Winter, executive director of the Missouri Gaming Association.
The odds of legislation passing during this special session are not high.
“Sports betting is clearly beyond the call and does not relate to Gov. Parson’s topics in the call,” said Kelli Jones, the governor’s communications director Kelli Jones. “I do not anticipate the call being expanded to include sports betting.”
Parson’s special session call is to lower the state’s income tax rate from 5.3% down to 4.8% and to reauthorize tax credits for farmers for at least six years.
According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, around 92,000 Missourians are currently struggling with a gambling problem, ranking Missouri 33rd out of 50 states. Last year, there were 4,000 calls and texts to the National Problem Gambling Hotline from Missouri.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a gambling problem, help is available.
Find resources from the Kansas Behavioral Health Services, Kansas Gambling Help, or call the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network at 1-800-522-4700.