For the first time this session, Missouri senators on Wednesday heard testimony about legislation that would legalize sports betting.
Among those supporting the bills were representatives of all six of Missouri’s professional sports teams.
Bill DeWitt III, president of the St. Louis Cardinals, said the team is in favor of legalizing sports betting and wants to do so.
“One of the drawbacks of being several years late here is that the fans haven’t been able to do that,” DeWitt said. “However, one of the positives is that we have learned from other states. We learned how to tweak it to make it more reflective of the market out there.”
Of the two bills legalizing sports betting heard on Wednesday, one only covers sports betting, while the other combines that language with other legislation that authorizes video lottery terminals called VLTs.
DeWitt said he supported the sports betting section of the bill, but said sports teams are “pretty agnostic” about video games terminal language.
“I think our position is that we would like to see the two issues bifurcated. But they’re together in this one, so it’s a political calculation,” DeWitt said.
Sports betting would only be allowed in Missouri casinos or online for people who are physically in the state.
Additionally, the bill establishes districts, where betting could take place online, in areas surrounding stadiums where professional sports teams play their home games, such as Busch Stadium or the Enterprise Center. Sports teams would have more authority over mobile betting in these districts.
“Legalized sports betting comes with natural challenges, so adopting a framework that provides strong regulation and controls to protect consumers and also benefit the state’s educational system is critical,” said bill sponsor Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer R- Parkville.
The bill imposes a 10% tax on sports betting. Any revenue from this fee must go into the Gaming Proceeds for Education fund.
Under the bill, the Missouri General Assembly would also have to allocate at least $500,000 annually from the Gaming Commission Fund to the Compulsive Gamblers Fund.
Missouri casinos are also largely in favor of the bill. Mike Winter of the Missouri Gaming Association mentioned the recent Super Bowl win by the Kansas City Chiefs.
“We have seen how many bets have been attempted to place from the stadium during the last home game, this shows the interest [from] Missourians and those who participate in sporting events and their desire to have the ability to bet on these activities,” Winter said.
Of the eight states surrounding Missouri, Oklahoma and Kentucky are the only other states that have not legalized sports betting.
On Thursday, a Missouri House committee will vote on its own set of sports betting bills.
Video lottery terminals
The bill introduced by Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, has similar language in the sports betting section, although his bill requires at least $5 million to be deposited each year into the Compulsive Gamblers Fund.
However, his bill would also authorize the use of video lottery terminals in the state.
“I’ve had bills that were just sports bets. I’ve had bills that were VLT only. I’ve had bills that only cover the gray market for games, but nothing has made it across the line. It’s time to do something,” Hoskins said.
Currently, the machines are statewide in areas such as truck stops, but are unregulated and illegal, though rarely enforced.
Hoskins’ bill allows veterans organizations, truck stops, fraternity organizations, and businesses licensed to sell liquor with beverages to have the machines.
Truck stops, veterans organizations, and frat organizations would be allowed to operate eight machines, while other businesses like restaurants and bars could have five.
The legislation also places limits on betting, where the most anyone could bet would be $5 per game. Only people aged 21 and older would be allowed to use the machines.
Supporters of the gaming terminal portion of the bill included several business owners who said they could benefit from the additional revenue.
However, that part of the bill does not have the support of Missouri casinos.
“We need a level playing field. There is nothing in this bill that puts VLT slot machines on an equal footing with existing slot machines and proprietary casinos. said the winter.
Senator Karla May, who introduced her own bill authorizing video lottery terminals, spoke in support of Hoskins’ language, saying it would be a game changer for small businesses.
“We have great people who want sports betting. Well, we need VLTs too, because we need small businesses to be able to compete with all of that,” May said.