By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
Once again, Missouri came up short on legalizing sports betting.
The Missouri Legislative session ended last week with no bill passed that would legalize sports wagering. Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden points the finger at fellow Republican Senator Denny Hoskins of Warrensburg for wanting to include the regulation and expansion of video slot machines in the bill.
"It is the responsibility of the people who want that, in this case, Senator Hoskins, to do his work and find 17 other people who believe in his position," Rowden said. "Until that happens, he is solely responsible for why we don't have sports betting in Missouri - no more no less. So, either he finds more friends, or he needs to get out of the way.”
A vote to include video lottery machines in sports betting legislation failed in the Senate on a 21-10 vote.
This marks the fifth year in a row that Missouri has failed to act since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down federal laws banning sports betting in 2018.
Sports wagering has since become legal in every state bordering Missouri except Oklahoma. Local state lawmakers have expressed great concern over this, with Missouri sports fans going over to Illinois, or in the case of St. Joseph area residents, making a short drive to Kansas to place a bet.
State representative Bill Falkner of St. Joseph says it’s disappointing, since Missouri’s professional sports teams are in favor of legal sports betting.
"We're losing a lot of revenue," Falkner said. "Professional teams are wanting that. We're leaving a lot of money on the table. The majority from what I'm hearing would like to do that. So, I think we missed an opportunity."
State representative Brenda Shields of St. Joseph is worried about Kansas luring Missouri’s pro teams across the state line.
"I do worry (Kansas) could lure the Chiefs or Royals to that side of the line," Shields said. "To be honest, there are social issues that arise with gaming and I'm disappointed that we are unable to collect the tax dollars to help with those social issues in our state."
State senator Tony Luetkemeyer of Parkville has sponsored sports wagering legislation each of the last five years. He’s repeatedly stated that sports betting and the issue of video lottery machines need to remain separate going forward.
"My hope is that we can separate those issues from one another," he said, "and just move forward with a clean sports betting bill. If someone is able to get their own VLT bill through the Missouri General Assembly, that's their prerogative. But, hijacking and continuing to kill the sports wagering bill, which has broad bipartisan support, to me, is just not the right way forward."
Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals leadership are now considering putting sports betting on the ballot and letting Missourians decide for themselves in 2024.
Sports betting legislation passed the Missouri House this year on an overwhelming 118-35 vote.
Luetkemeyer originally proposed a 10% tax on sports bets. That was raised to 15% during Senate debate. Budget projections estimate the state would reap $30 million in tax revenue its first year with cities that have casinos cashing in with an extra $3.2 million.
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