Missouri’s professional sports teams and representatives of its gambling casinos have reached an agreement they believe could bring sports betting to the state.
After four years of false starts in the Legislature, top officials with the sports teams, including St. Louis Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III, fanned out in the Capitol Wednesday pitching a plan that would bring Missouri in line with 32 other states that have legalized wagering on competitive events.
DeWitt said legalized sports wagering can lead to a “more engaging fan experience for our fans while providing an important source of revenue for the state of Missouri.”
“All of the professional sports teams in Missouri support legislation that will allow wagering to occur in a responsible way in the appropriate setting,” DeWitt said Thursday.
Key to the plan is to separate the sports betting issue from efforts to legalize video gambling in gas stations, truck stops and bars.
“We’re hopeful that sports betting can be debated on its own merits,” said Jeff Morris, vice president of public affairs and governmental relations for Penn National Gaming, which operates Hollywood Casino in Maryland Heights.
“I think it gives it a better chance of moving forward,” said Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, who is sponsoring a sports betting bill.
The agreement among the teams and casinos also would sever the issue from a key priority of Senate President Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, who wants to put an end to the rapid spread of illegal video gambling machines that have been placed in convenience stores across the state.
It also could negate the need for a statewide voter referendum on sports betting that is being mulled by the sports teams.
“We kind of have an approach that is coordinated,” DeWitt said. “That’s something we haven’t had for the past couple of years.”
Until a 2018 court case, full-scale sports betting was illegal in all states except Nevada.
More than 20 bills that include some form of sports betting have been filed since 2019, but none of them has crossed the finish line.
At least four bills have been introduced in the Legislature this year that could provide a framework for allowing Missourians to place bets on Cardinals games, Blues hockey games, Kansas City Chiefs football games, Kansas City Royals baseball games, the St. Louis City soccer team and the Kansas City Current women’s soccer team.
DeWitt said details of the legislation remain in flux on issues like tax rates, betting locations, the Missouri Gaming Commission’s role, the use of league data and “integrity provisions” that could protect bettors.
“We’re just starting in the session, and we need to work through all of the issues with the legislators,” DeWitt said.
Morris said the successful rollout of sports betting in other states will provide a road map for Missouri lawmakers, who are in session through mid-May.
The tax rate in other states ranges from 6.25% to 51%, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The coalition in Missouri has zeroed in on a 10% tax rate as a starting point.
Other states have seen more income from taxes on betting. According to the NCSL, New Jersey brought in $49.4 million in new tax revenue last year. In Pennsylvania, the state collected $38.7 million in fiscal year 2020.
Under one bill sponsored by Rep. Dan Houx, R-Warrensburg, which calls for a 10% tax rate, the proceeds would go to education.
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