Missouri Sports Betting, VGT Bill Stalls in Senate

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The Missouri lawmakers defeated Tuesday a sports betting bill that would have allowed the state’s 13 casinos to offer sports betting. If approved, Senate Bill 98 would also have authorized up to 10,000 video game terminals (VGT).

According to reports, this week’s vote in the Senate could be this legislative session’s last chance to address sports betting in the Show-Me State. Though the bill has the potential to be revived, it is unlikely due to lack of time. The Missouri legislature adjourns on May 14.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Denny Hoskins said he’s disappointed the SB 98 reached an impasse on the Senate floor. But he said he’s hopeful and would continue to work with those seeking to implement a regulated gaming environment.

While SB 98’s chances are almost unlikely to revive during this legislative session, other similar bills are pending in the House awaiting a hearing.

What Changes Would SB 98 Bring?

SB 98 would form the Missouri Video Lottery Control Act, which would legalize and regulate up to 10,000 VLTs in bars and truck shops, in addition to fraternal and veterans’ organizations. No location could have more than five machines.

The proposal would also allow the gaming commission to authorize the state’s 13 casinos to offer sports betting.

The bill would project an estimated $200 million annually from taxes earmarked for community organizations, including education programs.

Why Happened on Tuesday?

SB 98 reached an impasse on Tuesday night after which its backer Hoskin decided to table the discussion. The measure is now back on the informal perfection calendar.

Hoskin said he had been working for the past five years with each stakeholder to negotiate a framework for gaming in the state. He added that from lawmakers to citizens, everyone has consistently been willing to work with him in the endeavor.

Hoskin introduced two amendments to the bill- including increasing the penalties for operators for a certain activity and online sports betting. However, his proposal was voted down as Senate approved a substitute to SB 98, offered by Sen. Mike Moon to send the bill to a public vote in November 2022.

Why Does Hoskins Oppose the Referendum?

The referendum clause that the Senate voted with a 17-15 narrow majority would expose all provisions in SB 98 to voters’ discretion in the Nov. 2022 General Election. Hoskins opposes the referendum, saying that a referendum would ask for a straight up-or-down vote on the regulation of sports betting, VLTs, and other provisions of the bill.

Hoskins resented that voter rejection would leave nearly 20,000 unregulated VLT’s running unfettered across the state. VLTs are called “gray games as they operate in a gray or undefined area of the law.

SB 98 would have imposed an application fee and an annual licensing fee on the operators. Hoskins said casino operators and others have placed illegal gaming machines in various locations to undermine his proposal.

He said the casinos and the illegal operators have declined to come to the table. “For them, it seems the proliferation of unregulated gaming in Missouri is not just an acceptable outcome, but the outcome they prefer to legalizations.”

He said he had been telling his colleagues that illegal gaming would continue to spread across the state until we take action to regulate it. “While many claim they want to stop illegal gaming, their unwillingness to act has been louder than their word.”

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