It seemed last year when the Supreme Court ruled states could decide for themselves whether to legalize sports gambling in the state that the Show Me State would be one of the first in line to legalize sports gambling. The state already has casino gambling, as well as different forms of lottery gambling and charitable bingo parlors. However, it appears that the early hopes of Missouri legislators who thought the state would quickly approve sports gambling legislation are premature. As are the hopes for online and mobile casino gambling. Missouri had hoped to be the first state in the Midwest to allow online and mobile gaming.
Gambling in Missouri
Riverboat gambling has been part of Missouri river life since the 1800s, when gambling boats would travel up and down the river. The boats, because they were afloat all the time, were allowed to operate outside the law. Police officers operated on the land, but not in the river. Riverboat gambling continued up and down the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers until Prohibition put a stop to all of the riverboat fun. For a while, there was no gambling at all.
Then the Missouri Legislature decided to revive riverboat gambling. The passed a law in 1992 that allowed for riverboat casino gambling. Currently, there are 13 casinos operating in the state. Missouri also has an active state lottery that participates in scratch-off tickets, state, and multistate lottery games.
The Push to Increase Gambling
Several legislators want to move gambling into the 21st century, and to compete with neighboring states, especially Illinois, for gambling dollars. Bills are currently in the Missouri legislature to make several new forms of gambling legal. One bill would legalize and regulate sports gambling in riverboat casinos throughout the state.
The sports gambling bill has a lot of support in the Missouri Senate. However, it is tied to another form of gambling that is not as popular. Tacked onto the sports gambling bill is another bill that would legalize video lottery terminals in the state as well. Much like the neighboring state of Illinois, the VLT’s would be legal in groups of five in bars, restaurants, and truck stops. It is this portion of the bill that is causing the most consternation among senators.
Currently, the bill calls for the sports gambling privileges to come with a tax. The sports tax would be 12%, with a 2.5% administrative tax on wagers. In addition, gambling companies who are including sports gambling or VLT’s as part of their gambling platform will pay a once a year tax on the revenue. With VLT’s and online gaming in general, the state will get 32% of unclaimed prizes and 36% of the gross revenue. The bulk of the tax money would go to educational and veterans programs.
Several senators have mounted massive opposition to the gambling bills for different reasons. First, senators are uneasy with the lack of restrictions for sports gambling. Senators had several questions about what kinds of sports gambling would be allowed. Senators do not want high school sports to be a part of the sportsbooks. Other senators are not excited about college sports being in sportsbooks either, citing the possibility of cheating.
In addition, senators are not pleased with the funding formula proposed for new gambling. They feel some of the gambling money should be put into a rainy day fund for the state to preserve economic stability.
Conservative senators also have grave misgivings about the possibility of additional gambling in the state. They already believe the state has too much gambling as it is. In fact, some conservative senators cited the ongoing protests against the flag feel the NFL should not be included in the sportsbooks. Perhaps the largest outcry is over the VLT’s. Many senators feel that allowing video lottery terminals in restaurants where children may be is dangerous. Other senators have said they do not want to have VLT’s in their area.
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