Missouri State Senator Pre-Files Bill to Legalize Sports Betting

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Missouri State Senator Denny Hoskins has pre-filed legislation for the 2019 regular session that would legalize sports betting in the state.

2019 looks bright

Earlier this year, several states were preparing for the United States Supreme Court to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, thus removing a federal ban on sports betting and paving the way for states to decide whether they would like to legalize and regulate sports betting. Many states passed legislation early on to be ready if SCOTUS ruled in favor of sports betting.

Missouri’s attempt to be one of those states fell short during the 2018 regular session. Sports betting bills were proposed and one, by Representative Justin Alferman, moved forward but was unable to gain enough momentum to pass into law. Alferman created a bill that would allow the riverboat casinos of the state to offer sports betting and tax winnings. Proceeds from a gambling tax would go toward education.

Despite failed efforts earlier in the year, it seems Missouri might be on track to pass legislation in 2019. Senator Denny Hoskins has pre-filed Senate Bill 44. The measure would change existing laws regarding gambling to allow sports betting.

The proposed legislation would limit sports betting to the riverboat casinos. Players would be allowed to place in-person wagers at facilities that are licensed and also online via an interactive platform. However, for online betting, a player would have to activate an account in person before wagering would be allowed.

The bill would place a 12% tax on adjusted gross receipts of wagers on sporting events and another 2% would be set aside as an administrative fee. This percentage will go into the Veteran’s Commission Capital Improvement Trust Fund. An additional 0.5% would be taken each quarter for an Entertainment Facilities Infrastructure Fund. This fund will be used for projects involving sports venues, public conventions centers, and similar facilities.

There would be a $10,000 application fee and a $5,000 license renewal fee. Operators would have to follow strict procedures to offer sports betting in the state, including completing employee background checks and ensuring the security of the data collected via operations. Records must be kept of all wagers, including the wager amount and the bettor’s identity.

Integrity fee not included

Professional sports leagues in the US have sought a fee from sports betting to maintain the integrity of their games. This fee would be a small percentage paid by the operators to the leagues. Senator Hoskins does not want to pay the fee to the professional leagues.

In an interview, Hoskins said that he is not opposed to an integrity fee, but he does not want to give the money to the professional sports leagues. Hoskins has pointed out that sports team owners will often ask a local or state government to provide funds to upgrade a stadium or make other changes. Instead of giving the money to the leagues directly, the Senator would like to keep the money in the state’s hands so the lawmakers can decide how to make the venues of Missouri better.

Hoskins said: “It’s an idea that I started thinking about because, if there is an integrity fee, it would go to the professional leagues and if there is not an integrity fee, that money would go to the casinos. So I thought, what if we put the integrity fee into a fund because whether it’s the Scottrade Center or Arrowhead Stadium or the Edward Jones Dome… they don’t only need money to upgrade the actual facilities, but to upgrade the fan experience. Whether they need better intersections or lighting, or I’ve never heard of a stadium that says ‘yes, we have too many women’s bathrooms.’ The goal would be to upgrade either in the stadium or even outside of it.”

Basically, the 0.5% fee set by the bill would be the “integrity fee,” used to make upgrades to facilities as needed, but the changes would be up to the state.

For now, the bill is pre-filed and ready to be considered in 2019. Additional legislation is expected in the state, so there could be competing measures on the table and much to discuss among lawmakers next year.

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