Legislation legalizing sports wagering has the backing of a bipartisan Missouri House gaming committee.
The Missouri House Special Interim Committee on Gaming held five hearings between late August and November, and completed its 15-page report on Monday. Committee Chairman State Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, tells Missourinet it’s now being circulated for signatures.
The committee report views the legalization of sports betting as a “legitimate opportunity to increase state revenues” for education and other programs. By 2020, 18 states will have implemented sports wagering. The report concludes that Missouri would likely lose revenue if it doesn’t remain competitive with other states.
The report also says the state should focus on preserving and growing both the Missouri Lottery and casino gaming, in order to increase revenue for education.
The state has 13 licensed riverboat casinos.
Chairman Shaul describes the report as a status report, to the full House.
“We want to give the General Assembly a set of facts, a set of baseline of where we’re at, and what some problems are out there,” Shaul says.
The report says age restrictions are important and should be used to prevent minors from gambling. The report also says the bulk of sports wagering revenues should be directed to fund education.
Major League Baseball (MLB) representative Jeremy Kudon traveled to Jefferson City in November to testify before the committee. He testifies that Missourians are expected to wager $5.5 billion annually on sports, if it’s legalized. Kudon predicts that casino operators would make about $376 million a year from that, and that Missouri would receive $37 million annually in taxes.
The report also addresses alleged illegal slot machines, which dominated discussion for hours at most of the five hearings.
The report presents facts and recaps testimony about the slot machines, and does not make a formal recommendation. Chairman Shaul told Missourinet after the final hearing in November that the issue is a concern, adding that people want to play these machines.
“So what do we do going forward, how do we thread the needle of good legislation that, one, protects Missouri businesses, protects Missouri consumers and allows people to do what they want at the same time,” Shaul said in November.
The report describes the alleged illegal slot machines as “grey machines”, noting Missouri likely has more than 14,000 of them.
Alleged illegal slots can be found in locations like bars, restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores. There is one pending criminal case in western Missouri’s Platte County, in the Kansas City area. The report says any judicial resolution “is unlikely prior to late 2021.”
Shaul has predicted at several hearings that the Platte County case will likely end up at the Missouri Supreme Court.
While there is no formal recommendation, the committee’s final report says “it may be desirable to act to regulate such machines immediately to resolve uncertainty and prevent further loss of revenue that could be used for educational purposes.” The report also says the problem of illegal gambling is not likely to resolve itself.
The report says the Missouri Lottery and the Missouri Gaming Commission have offered to provide assistance with regulation, enforcement and drafting of legislation to address the issue.
The report will go to House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, and the full House. Missouri lawmakers return to Jefferson City for the 2020 session on January 8.
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