Legalizing Sports Betting Could Fund Education, Veterans

By Shoshana Dubnow, Columbia Missourian

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.— Legalizing sports betting in Missouri would generate revenue for education and veterans under a proposal debated by state senators Thursday.

State Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, said in a hearing Thursday that he wants Missouri to join the eight other states where sports betting is now legal.

Senate Bill 44, proposed by Hoskins, comes on the heels of a Supreme Court decision in May to overturn a federal ban on sports wagering.

In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Gov. Mike Parson acknowledged that sports wagering seems inevitable in the state, but said he wants to know who will serve as oversight if the bill is passed.

“I think it’s coming,” Parson said. “I’m going to see what the package is that the legislature comes out with before I decide if it’s good or not.”

Hoskins said many of his constituents were surprised to hear that betting on their phones is currently illegal.

“I told them I had a bill to make sports betting legal, and they looked at me with a puzzled look and held up their phone and said, ‘Well, I already bet!’” Hoskins said. “I had to inform them that is illegal in the state of Missouri.”

The bill would allow sports betting on riverboat casinos in Missouri. Another option would be to bet online if gamblers activate an account in-person at a casino.

“It would be a big boom for casinos,” Hoskins said. “If you want to have the mobile app or make bets in the state of Missouri, you have to visit a casino to do that.”

In addition to a 12-percent tax on the payout gamblers receive, Hoskins’ bill also proposes additional fees totaling 2.5 percent. Hoskins said the revenue from taxes and fees would support education, veterans and infrastructure of entertainment venues.

Mike Winter, who testified against the bill on behalf of the Missouri Gaming Association, opposed the bill’s regulation stating all sports betting needed to use official sports league data.

“No other place that has sports betting in its jurisdiction is required to use data solely from the leagues,” Winter said. “Once something takes place in a sporting event, it’s in the public domain.”

Winter expressed another concern with how much revenue sports betting could realistically bring in.

“The historical perspective in Vegas has been that sports wagering is a low-margin business, Winter said, adding that “95 percent of the funds that are bet on sporting events are paid back out.”

Hoskins agreed that sports betting is not a sure way to fund all of Missouri’s needs.

“I’ll be the first to admit — this is not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” Hoskins said. “And it will not solve all the needs and wants that we have in the state of Missouri. But it is a start.”

According to Hoskins, there are currently 24 other states with pending legislation to legalize sports betting.