Will Missouri Legalize Sports Betting Anytime Soon?

Many states have legalized sports wagering, but Missouri is yet to initiate that process. Although lawmakers have made efforts this year, hopes are that the legalization of the activity will be back on the table during the next legislative season. 

Missouri Yet to Legalize Sports Wagering

Since the US Supreme Court struck down PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) back in 2018, more than two dozen states have legalized sports betting. While previously PASPA restricted sports wagering to Nevada, now, sports fans can enjoy the activity in the Silver States and over 28 states, plus the District of Columbia. 

The states that have legalized sports betting are now collecting taxes and see a significant decrease in the black market. However, there are states that have yet to initiate the legalization of the activity. One such state is Missouri. 

Lawmakers in the state withdrew a bill proposing the legalization of sports wagering. But hopes remain that at the start of the legislative season in January, legislators will once again consider legalizing sports betting. 

Although sports betting is yet to move forward in Missouri, the state currently offers online gambling and bingo. Additionally, riverboats provide visitors and residents with plenty of casino entertainment. 

With that in mind, earlier this week, The Missouri Independent revealed that in the fiscal year ending on June 30, lottery sales have gone up 20%, to $1.8 billion. Naturally, with the sales going up, so did the funding for education programs in the state that hit $345 million, according to Lottery Executive Director May Reardon, who discussed the matter with the Senate Economic Development Committee on Wednesday.

Ed Grewach, general counsel of the Missouri Gaming Commission, as well as Reardon, supported the idea of introducing new products, which will ultimately increase state revenue from gambling-related activities. One such product is sports betting, which other states have proved can be a significant boost for the state’s coffers. 

Besides launching new products, Reardon pushed the idea for “modernizing the channels of distribution.” With that being said, if Missouri takes steps to modernize the channels of distributing lotteries and launches sports wagering, undoubtedly, the tax revenue from the activities will increase. Additionally, launching legalized sports betting will also decrease the market share of black market or illegal operators. 

Should Missouri Go Online or Stick to In-person Betting

While both Grewach and Reardon agreed on the need to liberalize gambling in Missouri, the pair are arguing as to how the activity should unfold. To Reardon, that clearly is with the help of the State Lottery, citing evidence that 70% of all online sports betting is conducted by lotteries across the world.

She also pointed out that lotteries have established methods of running gambling products and that 21% of every dollar spent via a lottery is contributed to education. 

According to Grewach, though, gambling should only take place in person without involving online operations. To be legal, a sports wager would have to be placed by a person at a physical venue. However, places like Indiana have proven that opting for in-person and retail operations only is not the most efficient way. 

While Missouri gathered plenty of steam in 2020 and was briefly listed as one of the five most likely jurisdictions to do so, the pandemic killed much of this momentum. Missouri’s last convincing bid to legalize sports gambling came in 2020 when Sen. Denny Hoskins proposed Senate Bill 98. Earlier this year, he vowed to sponsor any further attempts to legalize sports gambling in 2022.

The Show-Me-State still has a long road to go, but with 30-odd states having legalized operations, legislators can use plenty of readily available data.

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