Missouri Sports Betting Once Again On The Legislative Agenda

Posted on January 17, 2020 - Last Updated on March 20, 2020

Although legal sports betting in Tennessee hasn’t yet launched, it doesn’t have to worry about racing neighboring Missouri to market. Missouri sports betting legalization won’t happen anytime soon.

It could be this year, however. The Missouri House has a special interim committee looking at legalization and there are two bills in the Missouri Senate.

Why the push for legalization of Missouri sports betting?

As with most other things, just follow the money. Later this year, four states that neighbor Missouri could have legal sports betting of some form.

As a matter of fact, Tennessee might be the biggest concern for Missouri legislators right now despite the fact that the two states share a small border. Not only will the Volunteer State offer online wagering but that without an in-person registration requirement.

Iowa has such a mandate until New Year’s Day 2021. Illinois could have one upon launch of legal sportsbooks but that’s still uncertain.

In Arkansas, legal wagering is restricted to one retail book. Missouri legislators want to get their own market up and going to avoid losing revenue to these other states.

The current bills may not give the Show-Me State a regulatory advantage, however. There are some serious flaws with the language of those bills.

The problems with Missouri’s current gambling bills

The single biggest flaw with both bills is that both mandate future legal sportsbooks in Missouri pay a royalty to professional sports leagues. That essentially raises the tax rate for such operators.

One of the bills calls for a private tax of 0.75% on handle. Combined with the suggested tax rate for the state, Missouri’s legal sportsbooks would pay almost 22% of the action they take before paying out any winnings to bettors or trying to cover their expenses.

That would make it very difficult to turn even a meager profit. Sportsbooks would be faced with one of two choices: pass the cost on to the end consumer or skip Missouri altogether.

There is one positive for Missourians in the bills, however. Both would allow online sports betting without the aforementioned in-person registration requirement.

While that would be bad news for Tennessee’s books that hope to pull in business from Missouri, they should get a head start. That lead may be substantial.

Why MO sportsbooks aren’t imminent threat to TN

The legislative process has a long way to go in Missouri. These bills resemble one from last year that died in a Senate committee last year. While the existence of the House committee is a step toward legalization, indications point toward there still being a lot of work to be done there as well.

It could be months before a bill proceeds out of committee and weeks from there before a vote is scheduled. Right now the support of Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is unclear as well.

Even if the Show-Me State does legalize this year, that doesn’t mean sportsbooks will actually start accepting wagers in 2020. Tennessee residents should be familiar with that concept.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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