JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — Opening Day for baseball is approaching, and Missourians are one step closer to legal sports betting on those teams and others.
Currently, if you try to place a sports bet on your phone in the State of Missouri using a service like FanDuel, you won’t be able to because it’s not legal but it’s closer to reality after some of the state’s professional teams showed up to testify before a Senate committee Wednesday.
“One of the other things that this bill helps us do is remain competitive,” executive vice president of the St. Louis Blues Steve Chapman told committee members. “We are in competition with markets that are much larger than St. Louis, like New York, L.A., and Toronto.”
Sports betting is allowed in more than 30 states but not Missouri. Last month, the House approved legislation allowing anyone 21 and older to legally wager on colleges and professional sports teams.
“They [Missourians] might cross the border and place a bet and then go back to collect or they will hear about their friends doing it in Illinois, then sign up for an app that ends up being an illegal black-market app,” president of the St. Louis Cardinals Bill DeWitt III said in an interview Wednesday.
It’s estimated to bring in around $15 million according to one of the sponsors, Rep. Phil Christofanelli (R-St. Peters). Roughly 90% would go towards education, a portion going to problems gambling, and the rest going to local cities.
Representatives from the Kansas City Royals, Chiefs, Current and St. Louis Blues, Cardinals, and City SC all drove to Jefferson City Wednesday morning, testifying in favor of the legislation to let fans legally place wagers on Missouri teams.
“Our organization believes that the legalization of sports betting will further energize and engage our fan base,” chief legal officer for the Royals Adam Sachs said.
Back in 2018, the Supreme Court struck down a federal law against sports betting. Since then, roughly 30 states have legalized it, including Illinois.
“For us to be able to compete at that level, it is important for us to continue to drive revenue so that we are able to bring that level of competition, that level of candidly joy to our fans, and then to drive revenues for the region and the city itself,” Chapman said.
Chapman said that in the National Hockey League (NHL) players and the league itself split the revenue 50/50.
“You can tell by the contracts that are being handed out that certainly, the revenues driven are helping players,” Chapman said.
DeWitt wouldn’t give an estimate of how much a team like the Cardinals could make off of sports betting, but believes most of the revenue would come from marketing.
“I do hope and expect sports teams would make incremental revenue from this, mostly through the process of sponsors who want to reach our fans,” DeWitt said. “We want this to be a regulated, legalized marketplace so people can trust and know what the limitations and things are in place, and we can make sure it doesn’t get out of control.”
He said the goal isn’t to “overdo it” when it comes to marketing for sports betting. If families want to come to the stadium, he doesn’t want them to be “inundated with ads.”
This would allow betting inside the casinos, online and inside sports venues, as long as the team agrees, however, John Dalton, a lobbyist for the Players’ Association, says not on players are on board.
“I wish I could say this morning that we’ve reached an agreement on the few fundamental issues that are paramount to the athletes, but we have not,” Dalton said.
He said the conversations are ongoing, but the biggest concern is protecting an athlete’s personal data.
“By establishing a regulatory process that includes the Players’ Association, along with the sports wagering operators and the leagues in those critical areas, the system will be better equipped to protect the integrity of the sport and safeguard those that are the subject of the gaming activity,” Dalton said.
Last month, Rep. John Wiemann (R-O’Fallon) said on the House floor that in previous years, most casinos were against the idea. Wiemann said Ameristar Casino in his district in St. Charles didn’t like how the legislation was set to mandate what data casinos must use for sports betting. This past week, the bill was changed, allowing the casinos to pick as long as they have it approved by the Missouri Gaming Commission.
Jeremy Kudon is the president of the Sports Betting Alliance which represents wagering services like FanDuel and DraftKings. His biggest pitch to lawmakers on why this legislation needs to be passed is to stop the unregulated sports betting in Missouri.
“Robust online sports betting already exists in Missouri,” Kudon said. “They operate without oversight, without regulation, they pay no taxes, and perhaps most importantly, they could not care less if the Missouri resident who deposits money on their illegal sites are gaming in a responsible matter.”
Sen. Denny Hoskins (R-Warrenburgs) who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, questioned the tax rate for wagers during the hearing, saying 8% isn’t high enough. His bill calls for a 21% tax which is what casinos currently have to pay for other games. Hoskins legislation is estimated to bring in roughly $160 million annually for education and veterans.
Andy Arnold, a lobbyist for an Illinois gambling company, agreed with Hoskins that the tax needs to be higher.
“If it’s written to make more money for the teams and casinos, then you’ve hit the mark,” Arnold said. “If it’s written to provide substantial revenue for education and for the problem gambling it’s going to create, it’s sorely lacking.
He said the House bill also could cause legal issues for the state since, in the Missouri constitution, bets must be placed within 100 feet of the Missouri or Mississippi Rivers.
“This allows betting in any corner of the state of Missouri, and I have no doubt, in fact, I think my client even said they would potentially entertain a lawsuit or a challenge to that fact,” Arnold said.
Hoskins’ bill would also allow Missourians to bet inside convenience stores that offer chances on the state’s lottery. A priority of Senate President Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan) is to get rid of unregulated, illegal slot machines that have been popping up in gas stations over the years. He said there are anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 of those “grey” machines in the state. Since they are unregulated, even if it says you’re going to win two times out of a hundred, there’s a chance it won’t happen.
Hoskins’ bill has been heard in a committee but has not been debated on the Senate floor yet.
Under the legislation, there would be 33 skins created for casinos and six of them for sports teams. A “skin” is like an online license to provide remove betting over the internet.
Rumors of the Chiefs moving from Missouri to Kansas also had some lawmakers leery about granting them a skin.
“We helped you make this money, will we be guaranteed that you won’t leave us?,” said Sen. Barbara Washington (D-Kansas City).
“Our first step is to figure out what’s possible at Arrowhead,” Anne Sharf with the Chiefs said. “It’s very special to the Hunt family, it’s very special to the community and we know how the community has done a lot to support it up until now. It’s 50 years old, so, we have to do our homework.
Washington said that they want a commitment that the Chiefs are going to stay in Jackson County after years of investment for the team.
“The club is covering the cost to do an intensive survey to figure out what is viable to renovate Arrowhead and that’s really our first step,” Sharf responded. “Our lease agreement is for nine more years. We are committed to that least agreement.”
Sharf said the team is under the impression that if the Chiefs were to leave, the skin would need to be addressed again in the state they moved to.
“We are in Missouri, and we understand the skin would be contingent on that,” Sharf said.
The bill needs to be approved by the committee before moving to the Senate floor for a vote. If approved and signed by the governor, it’s estimated Missourians will wager around $150 million annually.
The House bill also calls for an annual study that examines problem gambling in the state and the social and economic impacts it has. The state also would be required to provide recovery services and require services and casinos to submit a plan when applying for a license on how to deal with problem gambling.
According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, around 92,000 Missourians are currently struggling with a gambling problem, ranking Missouri 33rd out of 50 states. Last year, there were 4,000 calls and texts to the National Problem Gambling Hotline from Missouri.