By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The Missouri Legislative session has ended without a sports betting bill being passed.
The Missouri House approved sports betting legislation in March for anyone 21 and older to place wagers on college and professional sports teams. But in the Senate, members couldn't find a path forward, and it had to do with regulating slot machines.
State Senator Tony Luetkemeyer of Parkville co-sponsored sports betting legislation with senator Dan Hegeman of Cosby. Luetkemeyer says sports betting not passing was perhaps the biggest letdown of the session.
"I really wish we'd have gotten a sports book betting bill done," Luetkemeyer told St. Joseph Post. "That's a piece of legislation I've sponsored for the last four years I've been in the Senate. Primarily, because we know people are betting illegally in gray markets right now and we don't know if the data is reliable, whether people are getting ripped off."
A big point of contention is video lottery games like slot machines, which are unregulated and illegal in many cases. An amendment was added to Missouri's sports betting bill that would do away with all slot machines, leading to a lengthy filibuster.
Meanwhile, the state of Kansas just passed sports betting into law, with governor Laura Kelly signing that bill earlier this month.
"Kansas just passed sports betting this year," Luetkemeyer pointed out. "So, I think we're going to see a lot of tax dollars flowing out of the state of Missouri and being spent in Kansas, which is unfortunate, because all gaming revenues in Missouri have to go toward K-12 education."
If sports betting ever did pass in Missouri, it would bring in an estimated $10 million annually, with most of that going toward education.
Hegeman says it's frustrating, because sports betting has stalled in Missouri in previous years over the same issue.
"That continues to get hung up by the video lottery terminals," he said, "and wanting to tie the two issues together. At the last, we were trying to separate those and find a path forward, but we just didn't seem to be able to find that."
Sports betting is now legal to some degree in all of Missouri’s bordering states. Luetkemeyer believes this may add some needed pressure.
"I do think next year, there will be some increased pressure to pass sports betting because of the fact it passed in Kansas," Luetkemeyer said, "and the different consequences that could have. In terms of the Chiefs, in terms of tax revenue on the western side of the state. I do not believe the Chiefs are going to leave and go to Kansas - based on conversations I've had with folks within the organization."
The Supreme Court struck down a federal law in 2018 against sports betting. Since then, more than 30 states have legalized it, including Illinois, Iowa and Kansas.
Kansas' bill says 80 percent of the revenues generated from sports betting would go into a fund to provide incentives for professional teams to come to Kansas.
While he does not believe the Chiefs would ever leave Missouri, Luetkemeyer expresses some optimism that next year could be the year Missouri finally legalizes sports betting.
"What you're going to see a lot of people in St. Joe and Kansas City that will drive across the river, go into Kansas and place a bet during March Madness or for the Super Bowl and then drive back to Missouri," he said. "That means that tax revenue is leaving our state and going to Kansas, which is unfortunate."
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