bill to create regulations for legalized video gambling in Missouri is being framed as a solution to the potentially illegal machines that have cropped up around the state and a way to replace falling revenue from the casino industry. The Senate Committee on Appropriations also heard March 4 competing bills that would legalize and regulate sports gambling in the state.
Senate Bill 566, sponsored by Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, would authorize video lottery game terminals in fraternal and veterans’ organizations, truck stops and retail locations with liquor licenses. The terminals would have to be connected to a centralized computer system run by the State Lottery Commission and be placed in a separate, supervised area only accessible to people age 21 or older, The Mexico Ledger reports.
The bill would not automatically legalize the currently existing machines, though Hoskins said some of the machines could potentially be brought into compliance with the law. Businesses that have machines that don’t follow the new regulations could be fined up to $10,000 and lose their license from the lottery commission.
Several senators on the committee, which heard the bill last week, stated that they considered the current machines illegal; others simply expressed opposition.
Sen. John Rizzo, D-Kansas City, said he had recently encountered some in a gas station in Ashland and was concerned that they are out in the open where anyone can see them. “I don’t want a kid to walk in a gas station to get a Gatorade and have to walk past three or four of these machines,” said Rizzo, who added that he was not necessarily in favor of video lottery terminals at all but was definitely opposed to the current machines.
After a business owner testified that he was at a competitive disadvantage because he was uncertain the terminals were legal and had chosen not to include them, Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, thanked him and said, “Shame on your competitors.”
Representatives of Missouri businesses emphasized their experience handling age-restricted products and the potential for lottery terminals to increase their business and revenue. One restaurant owner said his business had been suffering because of the prevalence of delivery services and home-based entertainment. He said lottery terminals could bring in additional revenue and attract customers.
Proponents also emphasized the impact that revenue from video lottery terminals could have on the state and local area. They said the additional funding could more than make up for the drop in revenue from casinos that has happened in recent years.
A representative of the Missouri Gaming Association, Mike Winter, spoke in opposition to the bill and argued that those projections don’t factor in the revenue loss from casinos that the gaming machines could cause. Winter also criticized aspects of the two sports gambling bills heard by the committee, especially the provision in both bills that sports leagues have priority to provide the data used to determine results. He is concerned it would lead to unreasonable prices for that data.
SB 754, sponsored by Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, and SB 567, sponsored by Hoskins, would both legalize sports gambling online or at casinos.
Andy Humes of University of Missouri athletics said that the department isn’t trying to make money from sports gambling but would like to make up for increased costs legalized gambling would bring related to monitoring and education.
While “NCAA institutions have historically been opposed to sports gambling,” he testified in favor of the bill, in part because it allows sports leagues to restrict Tier 2 or “prop” bets, which are based on specific events during a game rather than the game’s outcome. Student athletes are “the most vulnerable to those that are trying to influence outcomes of games or specific actions in games,” he said, and “prop bets are the easiest way to influence the game,” leading to a risky combination.
Hoskins’ bill would also legalize a form of betting called “parlay games,” which allows one bet on multiple outcomes, and would tax sports gambling at a rate of 9% compared with Luetkemeyer’s 6.25%. Hoskins said his bill is projected to bring in $115 million in revenue while Luetkemeyer’s is estimated to draw $13 million.