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Missouri Sports Betting Push Stalls After Filibuster

Missouri Sports Betting Push Stalls After Filibuster article feature image
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Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Truman the Tiger, mascot of the Missouri Tigers.

The Missouri Senate spent several hours Wednesday night debating a bill that would legalize online and retail sports betting statewide, though most of the debate had nothing to do with sports betting.

The Senate adjourned without even voting on HB 2502, which had already passed the House. A lengthy filibuster from Sen. Denny Hoskins (R) made it clear: any gambling expansion that doesn’t include video lottery terminals will be tough to pass in the Senate.

“You’re not going to have one without the other,” said Sen. Karla May (D), who joined him in debate after Hoskins spent several hours grilling Sen. Mike Bernskoetter (R).

His issue with Bernskoetter? He introduced an amendment that would have removed the addition of 5,000 video lottery terminals from the bill.

Bernskoetter, referencing the large number of so-called “gray machines” already present throughout the state, said he opposed adding more gambling terminals at gas-stations and rest stops.

Gambling Expansion Opposed by Casinos

Gray machines have existed in Missouri for years and get their nickname from their murky legal status.

In Missouri, games of chance are only allowed in casinos, but proponents have long-argued that the machines are more skill-based than chance-based, and have even won some minor lawsuits.

Casinos are against the gray machines, but they’re also against video-lottery terminals, which would essentially be gray machines subject to state regulation and taxes.

“Did the casinos put you up to this?” Hoskins asked several times of Bernskoetter.

Bernskoetter eventually fired back and asked that the chamber vote on his amendment.

Hoskins entertained the idea, but spent the rest of the night engaging with May. The two went back and forth hailing the virtues of VLTs and the benefit they’d provide for small businesses.

Hoskins several times referenced his “filibuster book,” which he’d been prepping if he didn’t get his way. He added that he had 153 amendments ready to go, a reference to the millions in tax revenue he said would be lost if VLTs weren’t legalized along with sports betting.

I eat big shot NY lobbyists for breakfast. 🙂 #moleg https://t.co/BBdPaizHxe pic.twitter.com/xKcd1KBuXy

— Senator Denny Hoskins, CPA (@DLHoskins) April 28, 2022

What’s Next?

No, the prospect of legal sports betting isn’t dead, though Hoskins’ performance dealt it a great blow.

Lawmakers will likely take up one of several other sports betting proposals floating around the legislature, though the House will have to vote again.

It’s unclear which bill they’ll pick, but whatever they choose, it’ll likely include video lottery terminals.

It remains to be seen how many lawmakers consider the addition of 5,000 VLTs a deal-breaker. We’ll know by May 13, the last day of Missouri’s legislative session.

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