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Zach Young of New Haven, Conn., places a bet Sept. 30, 2021, at one of the new sports wagering kiosks at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn. Legalized sports betting continued its expansion in 2023 with six states either passing legislation or beginning to accept wagering, Fanatics got into the business and professional leagues and college athletics continued to further embrace the industry.
Susan Haigh, Associated Press
JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House is poised again to take up a longshot bid to make sports betting legal in the state.
After years of failing to get a law on the books because of an ongoing impasse in the Senate, the latest push comes as Missouri’s professional sports teams and mobile gaming operators are gathering signatures to put the question directly to voters.
“I feel like it’s Groundhog Day,” said Rep. Dan Houx, a Warrensburg Republican who is sponsoring the package.
The House version, which was debated in the Special Committee on Public Policy Tuesday, would tax bets at 10%. An estimated $35 million would be generated for education.
The sports teams, mobile operators and casinos would be able to open betting parlors similar to those found in states surrounding Missouri that have legalized betting on sports.
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St. Louis Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III told the panel that Missouri is losing tax revenue by not legalizing betting on teams. The plan would raise money for problem gaming, bring in revenue for the state and regulate the marketplace, DeWitt said.
“We’ve really appreciated the help in the House for this important initiative,” DeWitt said.
The latest legislative effort is unfolding against the backdrop of a push by the state’s professional sports teams to legalize sports wagering through a vote of the people.
On Tuesday, sports betting giants FanDuel and DraftKings wrote checks worth $2 million to help finance a signature collection effort being managed by a coalition called “Winning for Missouri Education.”
Earlier, the two companies contributed a total of $500,000 to jumpstart the political action committee’s work.
If the effort can collect more than 170,000 signatures from registered voters in Missouri by early May, the question could be on the November ballot, taking the issue out of lawmakers’ hands.
Included in the coalition are the St. Louis Blues, Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis City SC and the Kansas City Current.
Their proposal would set the sports betting tax rate at 10% and allow the teams and the state’s 13 casinos to operate retail and online sports betting.
“We would gladly suspend that effort if we get legislative approval of this bill,” DeWitt said.
Sean Ostrow, representing FanDuels and DraftKing, said there is evidence that an estimated 350,000 Missourians have tried to place bets on mobile devices, proving there is revenue the state is losing.
“Missouri is absolutely missing out on that,” Ostrow said.
Salvatore Panettiere, representing the Kansas City Royals, also said the baseball club supports legalization.
“The fans are very vocal about wanting this,” Panettiere told lawmakers. “We see that as a loss of revenue in our state.”
The lone voice of opposition came from Bob Priddy, a former Statehouse reporter who is now a lobbyist. In testimony to the panel, he said the proposed tax rate is woefully low. Casinos, for example, have a 21% tax rate.
Two similar sports betting bills have been introduced in the Senate, but their prospects appear bleak amid an ongoing impasse over what should be done about the spread of unregulated slot machines in gas stations and bars across the state.
The committee could vote to send the measure to the full House as early as next week.
The legislation is House Bill 2331.
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