The Missouri Senate

  • Senate Bill 98 could regulate sportsbooks in Missouri.
  • The measure estimates a yearly revenue of $200 million from a regulated Missouri sports betting industry.
  • The 2021 session ends on May 28, with the final hearings for bills to progress set for May 14.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri State Legislature has a few weeks left in the 2021 session and sports betting regulation is still being considered. The current proposal was discussed in length on Tuesday night, coming to no real conclusion.

Senate Bill 98 has been put on the informal calendar for May 3. While this measure would regulate sports betting in Missouri at 13 casinos statewide, it would also allow a maximum of 10,000 “gray machines” better known as video game terminals (VGT) to be placed at various locations in the state. Truck stops, restaurants, and various other establishments could have up to five of these kiosks at their locations for patrons to gamble on sports.

The Gray Problem

It’s that “gray area” where the problem lies with this bill. Lawmakers are not sold on regulating the machines for use as sportsbooks. The proposal, with the inclusion of VGTs estimates a $200 million yearly revenue profit for the state. The money collected in revenue would go to organizations like the Missouri Financial Assistance Fund and the Veterans Commission Capital Improvement Trust Fund. But still, the legislature is hesitant on the gray matter, which is why the bill moved to the informal calendar rather than another committee.

“I am disappointed Senate Bill 98 reached an impasse on the Senate floor last night,” said Senator Denny Hoskins, the bill’s sponsor. “For them, it seems, the proliferation of illegal gaming in Missouri is not just an acceptable outcome, but an outcome that is preferable to regulation. I have impressed upon my colleagues that illegal gaming will continue to spread across our state until we take action to regulate it.”

Mobile sportsbooks were also included in Senate Bill 98 until they were taken out on Tuesday. The Missouri Gaming Commission (MGC) would be named as the regulator of the industry and would be in charge of the rules and regulations for sports betting in Missouri. Under the proposal, the MGC would be able to work alongside law enforcement to ensure no fraudulent activities are taking place within the market.

Missouri sports betting is said to be taking place with the use of illegal gray machines already. Investigations would need to take place to find out where these locations are and properly penalize operators for these illegal activities. Amendments to Senate Bill 98 for bigger slaps on the wrist for illegal machines and the once included mobile sportsbooks were shot down during the hearing.

What’s Next For Missouri?

Regulated sports betting in Missouri has been trying to get off of the ground since the repeal of PASPA in 2018. There has been no such luck thus far with any proposal brought to the legislature. It usually all boils down to the gray machines, the gray area that leaves movement on these bills left stagnant in the end.

Although Senate Bill 98 is on the calendar for May 3, the last hearings in the legislature will take place on May 14, with a final adjournment on May 28 for the 2021 session. If Missouri wants to get regulated sportsbooks in 2021, lawmakers need to begin to see the facts of the industry in black and white rather than be stuck in the gray.

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