Players unions appear at first MO betting hearing

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Missouri lawmakers had their first conversation about sports betting on Wednesday during a hearing on Rep. Dan Houx’s latest attempt at bringing sports betting to the Show-Me State.

Houx appeared alongside Rep. Phil Christofanelli, who introduced an identical piece of legislation, in front of the House Emerging Issues Committee. Since it was the same legislation Houx passed in the House last year, the group did not offer much in the way of questions, but Ranking Minority Member Rep. Ashley Aune did mention this was an issue she heard about repeatedly on the campaign trail and something her constituents want.

Lawmakers aware of demand for betting in Missouri

“We are literally surrounded by folks who can who can participate in this industry, and we cannot do it and is a true point of frustration for folks,” she said.

Houx and Christofanelli also took the opportunity to cite recent GeoComply data about the number of people in Missouri attempting to bet to draw attention to the demand for legal sports betting in the state.

Long list of supporters of this MO betting bill

A long list of representatives showed up to assert their support for the bill. Witnesses from the following organizations appeared in support:

  • The City of Kansas City
  • Kansas City Chiefs
  • Kansas City Current
  • Kansas City Royals
  • Missouri Chamber of Commerce
  • Missouri Gaming Association
  • Penn Entertainment
  • Real Time Fantasy Sports
  • Sportradar
  • Sports Betting Alliance (BetMGM, DraftKings, Fanatics, and FanDuel)
  • St. Louis Blues
  • St. Louis Cardinals
  • St. Louis City FC

Real Time Fantasy Sports is a local fantasy sports operation seeking an amendment to allow them to offer peer-to-peer wagering so they could be included. Company president Mark Hanna said he has spoken with lawmakers in the House and the Senate but had failed to get much traction.

Only two groups appeared in opposition of the bill. One, local citizen Bob Priddy, opposed the bill for being too industry-friendly and offered a comparison of how much the state could make if the tax rate was raised from 10% to 21%.

Players unions seek changes to bill to better protect athletes

The other group could be a sign of things to come as other states contemplate sports betting.

Jon Dalton of law firm Armstrong Teasdale, which represents the MLB, NBA, and NFL players’ unions, and Steve Fehr, attorney for the NHL Players Association, appeared together to appeal to the committee to consider how to best incorporate players into their legislation.

“I think there’s a good reason you ought to listen to the players,” Fehr stated. “And the reason is that simply that this industry you’re about to create and this new revenue stream you’re about to cause to start flowing is something that, frankly, is built on the backs of the players.”

Fehr and Dalton did say their groups support the idea of sports betting in Missouri, they would just like to see revisions to the bill to ensure the well-being of players is considered.

When asked what the lawmakers should be considering, the pair led off with protections in place to ensure player safety. Ohio and other states are already considering taking action against bettors spewing verbal abuse at athletes and families of athletes when their bets lose. They also suggested a confidential line where players and staff can comfortably report suspicious activity.

Fehr and Dalton also lobbied for more inclusion of the players’ groups when it comes to decision-making about sports betting.

The two also preemptively registered their opposition against the use of player biometric data in betting. While the subject has been broached at conferences like SBC Summit North America, no operator has actually moved on these markets to date.