Missouri Legislature Fails to Legalize Sports Betting

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The legislative session for Missouri has once again ended without an agreement on legalized sports betting. This is the fifth straight session where passage of a sports betting bill failed, even though there are several proposals on the table.

The main roadblock to passage continues to be Sen. Denny Hoskins (R-21), who supports sports betting, but only if it comes with the legalization of video lottery terminals. He has filibustered to block Senate votes on sports betting in each of the last two years, including one eight-hour filibuster in April.

Hoskins first brought sports betting to the floor of the Missouri Senate in 2018, and he supports the legislation. But his insistence on the inclusion of VLTs is staunchly opposed by Missouri casinos, and it has little to no support in the legislature.

Sports Betting Stops All Progress in Senate

The fight over sports betting in the Missouri Senate did more than just derail that bill. The House inserted sports betting into the Missouri Rural Workforce Development Act, a Hoskins-supported bill that would cut personal property taxes. But Hoskins didn’t blink, and instead of passing the bill, he blocked it. Also failing to get to a Senate vote was a bill that passed the House 150-0 that would give child sex abuse victims a longer window to sue their abuser.

On Friday, the final day of the legislation session as detailed in the Missouri Constitution, the Senate failed to pass a single bill.

“People bring legislation to the floor that they cannot get passed, and then in retaliation for that, they hang up the business of the Senate for hour after hour,” said Senate Majority Leader Cindy O’Laughlin (R-18). “We’re not all running for governor. We just want to do the work of the Senate. We need cooperation from everyone to get that done.”

O’Laughlin’s comment about running for governor was a reference to Sen. Bill Eigel (R-23), an ally of Hoskins who joined him in blocking the bill. Eigel hasn’t officially declared for the 2024 governor’s race. But he has formed an exploratory committee.

What’s Next for Missouri Sports Betting

A coalition that includes every major professional sports team in Missouri supports legalized sports betting. Since sports betting bills in the legislature continue to face the one-man roadblock of Hoskins, the coalition has considered trying to put the issue to the voters.

The earliest a sports betting measure could get on the ballot is 2024, the same year that Hoskins is forced to leave the Senate because of term limits. So if a ballot measure doesn’t work in 2024, the issue could go back to the Senate in 2025, when someone else has Hoskins’ seat.

Missouri has eight border states, and seven of them have legal sports betting. Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, and Tennessee have live sports betting, Kentucky’s legal sports betting goes live on June 1, and Nebraska is also working on a June launch for its legalized retail sports betting.

This year’s failed sports betting in Missouri, House Bill 556, passed in the House by a vote of 118-35.

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