Home > Casino > Missouri lawmaker trying again to marry VLTs and wagering gets plenty of pushback

Missouri lawmaker trying again to marry VLTs and wagering gets plenty of pushback

| By Jill R. Dorson
A Missouri hearing with no vote on Tuesday (30 April) again revealed opposition to marrying legal video lottery terminals with sports betting. This time around, it wasn't Senator Denny Hoskins carrying the bill, but House Minority Leader Crystal Quade.
missouri vlt sports betting

HB 2835 likely won’t get far. Assigned last week to the special committee on innovation and technology, the bill got its first hearing with opposition from casinos, a convenience store association and the home docks, or locations where gambling boats sit .

There were also references that the senate has plans to adjourn early. One lawmaker suggested it may adjourn on Tuesday. If that happens, current bills would stall and lawmakers would have to wait to see if there will be a special session. The senate has not yet approved a budget.

Quade’s bill would allow for statewide mobile wagering and renames and defines video lottery terminals as “mechanical amusement machines”. The machines currently operate in a grey market. They are neither explicitly legal nor illegal in Missouri and mom-and-pop shops often use them to generate additional income.

The state’s casinos have never supported the idea to marry VLTs and wagering. They say the machines take business away from casinos.

Bill picks “winners and losers”

The bill limits where the gaming machines could be located, creating buffer zones between where machines are placed and schools and casinos. That issue drew criticism from the state Missouri Petroleum and Convenience Association (MPCA).

“Our position is to pass a broad law that does not pick winners and losers, but does allow this everywhere,” an MPCA representative testified.

Others speaking noted that in some towns, if a school is located in the centre of town, every gas station/convenience store would be banned from having the machines. While the bill allows for municipalities to ban the machines on their own, they would only be allowed 180 days from the effective date to do so.

Casinos against, but sports teams support

Most who testified did so in support or opposition of either legal sports betting or mechanical amusement machines, not both. The St Louis Cardinals said they support the idea of legal wagering, but are agnostic on the mechanical amusement machines. The state’s casino association and home docks are opposed to the gaming machines, but support the concept of legal sports betting.

“We have opposed VLTs and sports betting (together),” Mike Winter on behalf of the Missouri Gaming Association, said. “The VLT operations have a detrimental effect on our casinos.”

He went on to say that the state’s casinos have invested $3.5bn in Missouri and that “changing the playing field” is unfair.

Marrying VLTs and wagering a familiar conversation

Quade said she knew she had brought the bill late in the game, but had heard from enough constituents on both subjects that she wanted to reopen the conversation.

As early as 2018, Missouri looked like it would be a first mover on legal sports betting. Lawmakers have been discussing the issue ever since, but have not been able to come to a consensus, in large part because Hoskins has pushed to marry VLTs and wagering in multiple sessions. He filibustered in two sessions to prevent stand-alone sports betting bills from moving. Hoskins will leave office at the end of this year due to term limits.

While the legislature again considers legal wagering, the state’s sports teams are collecting signatures for an initiative. The group says it has more than enough signatures to get on the ballot. The initiative would legalise statewide mobile wagering at a 10% tax rate. Digital platforms would have to be tethered to professional sports teams or existing casinos.

Subscribe to the iGaming newsletter