A report by a bipartisan group of seven Missouri legislators is scheduled to be released Monday and could bring clues about the state’s plans for sports betting as well as efforts to combat the proliferation of unregulated video lottery terminals (VLTs).
State Rep. Dan Shaul (R–Imperial) led the group of politicians examining the two issues. VLTs, which operate in similar fashion to slot machines, have been popping up across the Show Me State over the past several years, usually at gas stations, convenience stores and similar businesses.
Those devices are not regulated by the Missouri Gaming Commission (MGC). That lack of oversight has prompted lawmakers, such as Shaul and his special group, to get involved in an effort to ensure VLTs are properly regulated so that the state can collect taxes on the machines. Missouri is home to 13 casinos with more than 19,000 slots and nearly 500 table games combined.
We have a problem in Missouri with unregulated gaming,” Shaul said in an interview with KMBC News 9. “This isn’t something I want to kick down the road for another three or four years because all it’s going to do is hurt us on both sides of the aisle.”
By some estimates, there are more than 14,000 VLTs across the state.
Sports Betting, Too
The policymakers’ is also expected to highlight sports betting and the potential consequences Missouri faces if it does not approve that activity.
Rep. Wes Rogers (D–Kansas City), a member of Shaul’s committee, noted that geographically speaking, his state is trailing neighbors when it comes to permitting sports wagering.
Missouri shares a border with eight states, two of which – Arkansas and Iowa – have sports betting up and running. Data suggest that although the Hawkeye State is new to the sports wagering scene, bettors there are embracing the availability. In October, the second full month of sports betting in Iowa, sportsbooks there took in a handle a of $46.5 million.
Illinois and Tennessee, two other Missouri neighbors, are expected to have sports betting operational in 2020, putting some onus on Show Me State lawmakers to take action on the issue.
Estimates vary wildly as to how what the state’s haul would be from sports betting with the MGC forecasting $100 million annually and other groups projecting $40 million to $50 million.
Heading Off A Problem
Missouri lawmakers are concerned that if they don’t move on sports betting and VLTs, bettors will travel to other states to get action on sports while unregulated VLTs will pilfer revenue from traditional gaming venues.
It really could have devastating consequences. That’s not a dramatic prophecy, it’s reality,” said Rogers to KMBC News 9.
It is estimated that the 13 riverboat casinos in Missouri employ more than 6,000 people. Year-to-date, those venues have combined for $1.55 billion in gross gaming revenue (GGR), according to MGC data.
The state permits daily fantasy sports and generated $616,617 in revenue from that activity last year with FanDuel and DraftKings accounting for the bulk of that sum.