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Missouri Sports Betting Bill Draws Debate, Backlash In Senate


Early Wednesday, there was optimism about Missouri’s chances of passing sports wagering legislation. Unfortunately for proponents of legal sports betting, the Missouri Senate discussion that started Wednesday night and bled into Thursday morning revealed some roadblocks to legalization. 

“I tried to pass a stand alone sportsbook bill tonight, unfortunately I ran into some resistance,” Sen. Denny Hoskins tweeted at 1:30 a.m. CT Thursday. “But I’ll keep working toward a compromise bill that provides funding for our veterans & education!”

Hoskins introduced sports betting legislation with a 15% tax rate, a $1.25 million annual fee per skin or platform, three skins per casino company, and one skin for each professional sports team. Hoskins’ bill excluded video lottery terminals, which is something he has previously wanted included with legal sports betting.

Hoskins worked with Rep. Dan Houx to help craft the details in the bill, using Illinois‘ legislation as a guide. The pair were in agreement that Hoskins should try to work it through the Senate on Wednesday night. 

Even with Hoskins and others doing their best to explain the benefits of legal wagering late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, there were still questions and concerns about the bill. 

Sen. Bill White was among those with myriad questions about Hoskins’ proposal. White questioned the positive economic impact Hoskins expects from legal sports betting. 

“This is a contentious bill,” White said. 

White worried about low-income Missourians losing their money gambling on sports. He seemed concerned about legalization of wagering benefiting sportsbook operators and gambling companies rather than the people of Missouri.

“We are going to have kids that are not having homes,” White said. “We are going to have kids that aren’t having food because people can’t spend [money].” 

Shortly after those comments, Hoskins decided Wednesday night/Thursday morning wasn’t going to be the time for the legislation to be approved.

“He was very passionate that we should not legalize sportsbooks in the state of Missouri and appeared to be in filibuster mode,” Hoskins told Sports Handle. “With time ticking away and it being 1:30 a.m. … I decided, ‘OK, I’m going to withdraw that amendment.’”

Still a chance?

Despite the “resistance” Hoskins referred to in his tweet, the legislative session doesn’t end until May 13. Time is running out on Missouri legislators to pass a sports betting bill, but for the glass-half-full crowd, there’s still about a week left in the legislative session for lawmakers to come to an agreement. 

“I’ve always said, ‘Never say never,’” Hoskins said. “It’s not dead. … I’m trying to do what I can.”

Professional sports teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals, are still pushing for legalized sports wagering in Missouri. There’s also the added incentive of keeping pace with Kansas, which recently sent its sports wagering bill to its governor. If Gov. Laura Kelly decides to sign the bill into law, then legal sports wagering can launch in Kansas just a few months later. 

If Missouri wants to keep pace with its neighboring state, its legislators need to come to an agreement on sports wagering in the near future. It’s not completely clear when the Missouri legislature may resume the sports betting debate, but it has to be soon if Hoskins wants to turn a sports betting bill into law. 

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