ST. LOUIS – There is a new push to allow sports betting in Missouri. More than 30 states have it, including Illinois, which ranks third in dollars bet, behind only Nevada and New Jersey.
It’s becoming a Sunday ritual for gamblers in Missouri: a road trip across the Mississippi River into Illinois to get their bets in before kickoff.
“I don’t like going to Illinois to gamble but I will,” said sports fan Ryan Murphy.
Unlike casino gambling, which is legal in both states, sports betting is not legal in Missouri but it is in Illinois.
Cardinal Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith christened the new FanDuel Sportsbook at the former Fairmount Park horse track in Illinois last year.
Missouri residents can legally go there to bet or simply pull over after crossing the river and bet from their phones, tablets, and laptops. The location features on those devices must show they are actually in Illinois for bets to go through.
“I think Missouri should definitely allow their residents to gamble (on sports),” Murphy said.
A growing list of lawmakers at the state capitol in Jefferson City agree.
State Rep. Phil Christofanelli (R-St. Charles) has introduced a bill that sets a $100,000 upfront fee for sports betting licenses, a $50,000 renewal fee every two years, and a 10% tax on profits for companies in the sports betting business.
“This is one the few political issues people my age tend to care about,” he said. “It’s the one I hear about the most when I go back home: ‘When is Missouri going to pass sports betting?’ I believe the answer is now. The time is now.”
Among those coming to the capitol to lobby legislators to legalize sports gaming are the major league sports franchises: the Royals and Chiefs in Kansas City, along with the Blues and Cardinals in St. Louis. Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III issued a statement, saying in part: “We hope to find consensus during this current legislative session to bring Missouri in line with 32 other states, six of them being our neighbors.”
State Senator Tony Luetkemeyer, a Republican from northwest Missouri, has introduced a bill similar to Christofanelli’s in the senate.
“It’s kind of historic in a way that you have the teams both on the eastern side of the state whether that’s the St. Louis Cardinals, the Blue, or whether on the other side of the state (where) you’ve got the Royals and the Chiefs. (They) are all coming together with the 13 casino licensees to come up with proposed language that the sports teams, as well as the casinos, are supportive of,” he said.
“It’s a great thing for the sporting franchises as well as for the leagues. The fact is it brings more interest to the sport if you are able to place a legal sports bet. You just look at what fantasy football has done for the NFL.”
Casino operators are developing plans to add sportsbook gaming in Missouri as they have in other states. Penn National Gaming would add them at its Hollywood and River City Casinos in St. Louis County.
Legalization would mean an estimated $40 million to $50 million in yearly revenue for the state of Missouri, revenue now going to other states or lost to the illegal sports gaming market.
“There are millions of dollars in tax revenue being left on the table,” said Jeff Morris, vice president of public affairs and government relations for Penn. “This illegal market pays no taxes, pays no fees. There are no protections for the customers. People are already doing this with bookies in the back alleys. This is an opportunity for Missouri to capture that lost revenue.”
Missouri needs less—not more—gambling, according to opponents, but if one of the bills becomes law you could be betting from your living room in Missouri by the fall of 2022.