In the face of uncertain prospects, Missouri’s pro teams take a gamble on sports betting | politics

JEFFERSON CITY — A parade of senior officials with Missouri’s professional sports teams on Wednesday urged lawmakers to legalize sports betting.

But despite massive lobbying by teams and the state’s 13 casinos, there still remains uncertainty as to the final outline of a plan.

And with the Senate moving at an icy pace this year, it’s unclear if there’s enough juice behind efforts to get a framework across the finish line before the May 13 legislature adjournment.

For example, under the legislation proposed by Senator Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, sports betting could generate an estimated $163 million in tax revenue for the state, based on a 21% tax rate.

Other proposals in the legislative pipeline would raise less money because tax rates, fees and betting structures are lower or more restrictive.

At a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, St. Louis Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III said the team was pleased the issue was being discussed but did not commit to supporting Hoskins’ version.

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“We support his efforts,” DeWitt said.

Kansas City Chiefs vice president Anne Scharf said the team supports the move to bring sports betting to Missouri.

“All sides have been working very hard on a compromise for a long time,” Scharf told the committee.

And Jason Thein, legal counsel for the St. Louis City football club, said legalizing sports betting would make it safer for those looking to bet on games.

“We think it’s important to shed some regulatory light on what we know is already happening in the state,” Thein said.

But in a sign that work still needs to be done on the proposal, Missouri Gaming Association executive director Mike Winter said the state’s 13 casinos are concerned about the tax rates and fees in Hoskins’ bill, as well as some of the regulations that allow it to place various special bets.

While the Senate is debating various proposals, the House of Representatives is also working on putting legislation to the test.

The House version could bring in more than $96 million in revenue for the state and another $10.8 million for local governments.

Under the House plan, each of Missouri’s 13 casinos could offer sports betting, including collegiate sports, while teams could also offer betting at their stadiums through partnerships with sports betting sites like FanDuel and DraftKings.

Revenue estimates are based on fees paid by teams and companies and a 10% tax rate on bets.

The push for sports betting was accelerated in January when Missouri’s pro sports teams and casino officials announced they had reached an agreement to work together to have the state join 32 others, including Illinois, in legalizing betting on competitive events .

Until a court case in 2018, sports betting was fully illegal in all states except Nevada. Some states have acted quickly to get sports betting and its tax revenues on the books. Illinois legalized it in June 2019.

Efforts in the Legislature have stalled for four years over disagreements over how to rid the state of unregulated, illegal slot machines that have flooded gas stations, truck stops and bars in recent years.

On Wednesday, Hoskins also outlined his plan to legalize video lottery gaming to bring up to $240 million in new revenue for the state.

Hoskins’ legislation would make the current amount of unregulated slot machines operating in gas stations and bars across the state illegal.

“Unfortunately, these games are not regulated by the state,” Hoskins said.

Any company allowing the use of a prohibited gaming terminal would face criminal charges and a $10,000 fine.

According to Senate Bill 642, the machines must be located in a separate room and connected to a central computer. The maximum bet would be $5 and no one under the age of 21 could play.

The state tax rate for the machines would be 36%.

Originally posted at 10:30am Wednesday March 9th.

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