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Missouri Lawmakers Close to Agreement on Sports Betting

Missouri Lawmakers Close to Agreement on Sports Betting article feature image
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Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Connor Bazelak.

Missourians using FanDuel and DraftKings by the end of the year is still very much a possibility.

After suffering a setback last week when Sen. Denny Hoskins (R) filibustered apart a sports betting bill passed by the House in March, Representatives and Senators nearly struck a deal late Tuesday night, according to sources in the legislature.

Talks have centered around legalizing 5,000 new video-lottery terminals along with sports betting — the impetus of the House bill’s demise last week. The terminals are a must for Hoskins, who has promised to filibuster any gaming bill that doesn’t include them.

Kansas beat Missouri to the punch last week when it passed its sports betting bill first. The move earned Kansas bragging rights over its “Border War” rival, but it has also ramped up pressure on Missouri’s lawmakers.

“It’s been reported that the bill is dead, but its not technically dead until they go sine die. This is the time in which you can get a negotiation done,” said Brandt Iden, head of government affairs Sportradar and former Michigan state representative. “Folks in Missouri are definitely feeling the pressure of Kansas.”

If they can’t reach an agreement Missouri could be the only Midwestern state without legal sports betting by the end of the year.

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Agreement in the Works

Hoskins and Rep. Dan Houx (R) have discussed amending another sports betting bill floating in the Senate into something that could pass both chambers by May 13, the last day of Missouri’s legislative session.

Houx is the House bill sponsor.

The Senate bill, in its current form, would tax online sportsbooks at a 21% rate, nearly double the 10% tax already voted on by the House.

The larger tax, along with VLTs would raise about $153 million a year more than the House proposal, which is estimated to raise $10 million annually, according to a fiscal analysis.

Expect the final tax rate to land somewhere in the middle.

The rest of the framework already passed in the house should remain the same: up to 39 sportsbooks, with three mobile skins set aside for each state casino, and one mobile skin for each of Missouri’s pro sports teams.

VLTs Please

Hoskins told Action Network last week that Senate Majority Caucus Chairman  Dan Hegeman (R) had promised a standalone VLT bill would have “parallel passage” to sports betting legislation.

“There has not been the parallel path that I was promised. I think the casinos wanted me to file the bill separately from sports betting originally,” Hoskins said. “My VLT is still over here in the Senate and there has not been any house hearing on it. I’m hopeful they can come to their senses.”

Missouri, like many states in the Midwest, is littered with so-called “grey machines,” which are essentially video lottery terminals with murky legal status.

Before Kansas passed its legal sports betting bill last week, lawmakers contemplated a provision to pay back grey machine owners if a court deemed they violated the state’s contract with casinos.

Grey machines have been able to tiptoe around the law under the presentation that they’re skill-based. Whether games are skill-predominate or chance-predominate is a longstanding question in gaming law and has been used to protect things like daily fantasy sports.

Hoskins has accused Missouri’s casinos of backing an amendment to kill the video lottery terminals, which, unlike grey machines, would be regulated and taxed by the state.

“I’m hopeful that the casinos would come to their senses,” he added.

For Missouri sports betting to pass, the Senate and House must pass identical versions of the same bill by next Friday. Gov. Mike Parson (R) has indicated he’ll sign whatever they get to him.

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