In 2021, Missouri became the twenty-first state in the United States to legalize sports betting. Once debating these same terminals every year, both proponents and opponents of legalized sports betting once again showed too much support for legalized sports betting. With the recent events in Las Vegas, however, even supporters of legalized sports betting are now saying that they expect a decline in sports betting across the nation. “I think we will see fewer bookies in the coming years,” said Rich Snider, Executive Vice President of the St. Louis Sports Commission, in an interview with the Associated Press (AP). “The decline in sports betting across the country has been leveling off over the last couple of years.” “Books don’t have the income that they used to,” he continued.
Missouri sports betting was approved by the state legislature in 2021. The next year, legislators passed another bill making it easier for individuals to register to bet using their credit card. Last year’s bill made it illegal for individuals to transfer money to or from sports betting accounts to prevent interference from third parties. The session ends this month.
There are many reasons why there are concerns about the legality of Missouri’s new law. One concern is that lawmakers didn’t make clear which sports betting games they support and which they do not. For instance, Representative Mike Leary (D-St. Louis) voted against the previous bill, but he is one of the House Majority leaders and can vote whatever he wants. The only state senator who has reportedly been in favor of legalizing sports betting is Kurt Vandiver, (R Springfield), but he is not a member of the Senate or the House. Vandiver did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Another concern for some members of the House and Senate is that the new laws may conflict with the United States Congress’ interstate gambling laws. They worry that legalizing sports betting will encourage individuals from other states to wager on games in Missouri even when they are out of state. There are two separate acts that the U.S. Congress passed in response to the proliferation of online gaming across the country, H overwhelmingly passed in both houses, and S only recently enacted. These federal laws prohibit sports betting from being conducted through the same Internet account used by an internet gambling site.
While the Missouri House and Senate voted to legalize sports betting in Missouri, Governor Jay Nixon (R) is expected to sign the measure into law. He previously indicated that he would support the legalization of gambling, but he hasn’t said if he will also sign the Senate legislation into law. Some lawmakers, however, believe the move isn’t likely. The legislature didn’t take up the issue of whether gambling is legal in the state during the regular legislative session, so it may be unclear whether the state can legally regulate gambling. “The fact is that there are some powerful forces against making this type of legislation part of our communities,” said Matt Meneely, communications director for the St. Louis Sports Writers Association. “Even those who are most supportive of legalized gambling are concerned about its effect on smaller rural municipalities such as the one in Missouri that are trying to create economic development plans”
According to Meneely, the Missouri House has introduced a version of this bill that doesn’t appear to be a complete victory for the legislature. He notes that the bill, which now moves to the Senate, could face significant amendments before becoming final. If the House passes this version, it will be interesting to see if the Senate takes up and passes the same bill. “This is not a done deal yet,” Meneely said.
The controversy over the legality of sports betting in Missouri has become heated because of the efforts of the local sports leagues and organizations to have the law changed. Earlier this year the Missouri State Highway Patrol was sued by the Missouri Sports Writers Association over a story detailing the league’s stance on gambling. The NBA, Major League Baseball, and the NFL were among the major professional sports leagues that refused to allow their players to accept bets from anyone other than their own teams. Those three leagues now jointly propose a resolution that they say will help regulate the sports betting industry in the state. The original lawsuit was settled out of court.
While many politicians and sports betting aficionados hope the new legislative session in Missouri will solve the problem, others warn that it may just make things worse. According to the Associated Press, Representative Tom Foley (R) represents the northwest part of the state. He says that he plans to introduce a bill that would require professional gamblers to register with the state before they can place a single bet. Missourians worry about the burdensome nature of these new requirements, particularly since many people won’t be able to meet the new qualifications.