JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House on Wednesday tentatively approved a plan to bring sports betting to the state.
Backed by the state’s professional sports teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team and the St. Louis Blues hockey team, the plan would allow people to legally bet on collegiate and professional sports for the first time.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Rep. Dan Houx, R-Warrensburg, who co-authored the measure with Rep. Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peter.
The plan, which requires a final vote in the lower house of the legislature, introduces an 8% tax on wagers that would bring in an estimated $10 million annually based on financial analysis by House analysts.
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The state’s 13 casinos, as well as sports venues, would have betting windows, but people could also use their mobile devices to place wagers on games through sites like FanDuel and DraftKings.
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 .
Proponents said the law would allow Missouri to collect revenue from bettors who cross state lines.
“Missourians are doing it right now and we’re not benefiting from it,” said House Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann, R-O’Fallon.
“All this does is take something from the black market and put it on the white market,” said Rep. Wes Rogers, D-Kansas City.
In addition to the Cardinals and the Blues, the St. Louis City football club, the Kansas City Chiefs football team, and the Kansas City Royals baseball team also campaigned for the measure.
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.
“The Supreme Court says we can do that,” said Rep. Jason Chipman, R-Steelville.
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.
That could prove a significant hurdle in the Senate, where Senate President Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, has been pushing hard to eliminate slots.
During the debate, lawmakers added an amendment to the proposal calling for a study into compulsive gambling.
“With an industry that’s bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars, we have to look at this,” said Rep. Ben Baker, R-Neosho.
Baker said the study would set a baseline to help officials determine how much should be spent treating people with gambling addictions.