With the excitement of the NFL playoffs underway, Missouri legislators will examine sports wagering this session as one possible means for raising badly needed state revenue.
Prospects for sports betting will actually be coming to the fore for many state legislatures this year, in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in May authorizing its implementation by overturning a federal ban.
Supporters said the idea should help dissuade illegal gambling on professional contests. In Missouri, the notion of sanctioned sports betting surfaced at the Missouri Capitol before the 2018 session ended.
Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, said he reviewed a sports gambling proposal whose general ideas are likely to resurface in several bills.
“I fully anticipate it moving this year,” Hegeman said, noting that colleague Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, has pre-filed legislation to certify sports betting. “I would assume we have a number of folks who would be interested in sports wagering.”
According to Hegeman, a 2018 fiscal note prepared for Hoskins’ initial bill estimated that sports wagers could raise $18 million, with more than $15 million for education and almost $3 million for a Missouri Veterans Commission Capital Improvement Trust Fund.
One of the issues to be scrutinized will be an integrity fee that would entitle professional sports to a percentage of sports betting’s gross receipts.
Hegeman said there are interests in the state that would prefer seeing a link established with Missouri casinos. The senator added he understands the debates on the idea’s merits will feature claims that sports betting deters illegal gambling.
Rep. Rusty Black, R-Chillicothe, termed the proposals as deserving “a worthy discussion.”
Black said the measures that arrived late in the 2018 session included input from Major League Baseball.
“It was a beginning conversation,” he said. “On the whole, it’s going to make a difference.”
It won’t be “a golden egg” resolving all of the state’s financial issues.
His House colleague, Rep. J. Eggleston, R-Maysville, said examining the tax stipulations of sports gambling will be part of the deliberations.
“The devil is always in the details,” Eggleston said.
One of Hoskins’ pre-filed bills would authorize sports wagering only on Missouri gaming boats, either in person or by enabling wagers over the Internet. An allied proposal would repeal the current prohibition on gambling on sporting events on the boats.
A bill authored by Sen. Bill Eigel, R-St. Charles County, would designate particular areas of a boat for sports wagering, although other areas would be allowed the use of limited mobile gaming systems. Hotels and restaurants could also serve as gambling sites.
Rep. Cody Smith, R-Jasper County, has filed a measure in the Missouri House for sports wagering on boats.
Affinity Gaming and Z Capital, which own and operate the St. Jo Frontier Casino, declined comment to News-Press Now on the proposed sports betting for Missouri.
However, the American Gaming Association said it’s supporting the spread of sports gambling based on the high court’s opinion. Sara Slane, senior vice president of public affairs, said the notion of eliminating the black market is a “tremendously positive” incentive.
The American Sports Betting Coalition, which is acting as a promoter for the state efforts, said an estimated $58 billion in illegal bets was placed on NFL and college games in 2017.