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Make sure Missouri benefits from sports betting

If the Kansas City Chiefs play the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs next year, odds are you will be able to place a bet on that game.

Last May, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1992 ban on sports betting in most states outside of Nevada and other states began thinking about ways to legalize sports wagering. Most of Missouri’s neighbors — Kansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee — have recently filed legislation to that effect. Arkansas approved its version of sports betting last June.

Missouri likely will act during the current legislative term, and it’s expected some form of a sports wagering law will be passed. Estimates predict sports wagering could add between $18 million to $40 million to the state coffers.

So sports betting is here. The real debate could be how it’s set up and controlled.

At least three sports betting bills were pre-filed before the session began and will define the argument. So far, we favor the bill proposed by Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg.

Hoskins’ bill simply adds sports betting to the existing riverboat casinos in Missouri, taxes the gross receipts at 14 percent, and puts control in the hands of the Missouri Gaming Commission.

If you’re thinking that 14 percent sounds a little steep, you would be right. According to ESPN, Nevada taxes gaming revenue at 6.75 percent while New Jersey is at 8.5 percent.

Hoskins’ proposal does have a couple of unique aspects.

First, 2 percent of gross receipts will be transferred to the Veterans Commission Capital Improvement Fund for the construction, maintenance and equipment needs of veterans’ homes and cemeteries in the state.

Second, under the proposal, the casino will collect what’s called an “integrity” fee of .5 percent. Hoskins would like to use that money to build entertainment infrastructure, such as convention centers, stadiums and transportation facilities.

Both earmarks would be used for a specific purpose, a prospect that we think is important.

We’ve long given up on the promise that gaming funds would be used to pay for public schools, a selling point when casino gambling was initially passed. Sure, gaming money entered through the front door of state budgets and was used for education, then the legislature subtracted other funds out the back door. Casino revenue has not been a financial panacea to public schools.

Thus, we favor earmarking some of the revenue from sports betting. Let’s use some of the money to improve the lives of veterans and make our state an attractive convention and entertainment destination rather than being absorbed into the rest of the state’s revenue.

If we’re betting on sports wagering, let’s make sure there’s a payoff.


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