Missouri Legislature considering legalizing sports betting

Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 6:51 PM CST
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MISSOURI (KMOV) - Fifty million people are expected to bet on the upcoming Super Bowl, but despite the demand, none of those people will be making those legal bets in Missouri.

If a St. Louis resident wants to legally bet now, they’d have to drive to Illinois and bet on their phone or at a casino.

But that could change. The Missouri Legislature is considering a bill that would legalize sports gambling in the state.

John McGee likes to place bets on every major American sport and he travels from St. Louis to FanDuel Sportsbook in Collinsville quite often.

“I come over here twice, at least three times a week,” said McGee.

He soon could be placing bets from home.

A House of Representatives hearing was held in Jefferson City Wednesday on two bills that would fully legalize and regulate sports betting in Missouri.

“We have this strange system where people are driving across state lines to participate in an activity, which doesn’t make any sense,” said Rep. Phil Christofanelli (R-St. Peters), the sponsor of the bill.

Christofanelli calls the current system ridiculous and says the state is losing out on money.

“That means all that revenue associated with those wagers are going to other states and not the state of Missouri and that’s really unfortunate,” he said.

Casey Clark Sr., vice president of the American Gaming Association, said one of its members flagged people trying to bet on sports in Missouri after Kansas legalized sports wagering.

“They flagged over 5,000 pins in Missouri for people trying to bet,” said Clark.

He said it will happen regardless of whether the legislature creates a new law.

“People in St. Louis are betting on sports today, they’re betting on sports on the Super Bowl in Missouri, they’re just going to do it illegally,” said Clark.

And it appears there would be plenty of revenue.

The legislative research office projects anywhere from $21 million to $29 million of tax money coming in annually from legal sports betting.

Most of that would go to education, giving lawmakers more flexibility in other areas of the budget to add funds.

Sports betting is currently legal in Illinois, Arkansas, Kansas, and Iowa.
Sports betting is currently legal in Illinois, Arkansas, Kansas, and Iowa.(KMOV staff)

Some Metro East businesses would not benefit.

“To be able to sit at home and do that versus just coming over to the state line, absolutely that’ll hurt us,” said Melissa Helton, general manager and president of FanDuel Sportsbook and Horseracing.

Helton acknowledges they’re likely to lose customers if Missouri legalizes sports gambling but with a new casino coming, and a sports bar atmosphere at the sportsbook, they’ll be okay.

“I’m not too worried about that, yes it will take away some of our customers, but we’ll still recoup,” said Helton.

As for McGee, he’s counting down the days he doesn’t have to drive to the casino.

“It’ll be a nice convenience if I can just do it from my house,” said McGee.

Missouri would be the 37th state to legalize sports betting, joining most of its border states.

The Missouri House passed a bill last year that would have legalized sports gambling in the state but the bill stalled in the Senate.