MO sportsbook amendment would charge $4 per online betting session

Hand holding four $1 bills
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The sports betting industry knew they were facing a VLT battle in Missouri, but Wednesday it was Sen. Karla May and not Sen. Denny Hoskins waging most of the battle. At the end of the day, the VLT proponents succeeded in the bill not reaching a vote, but it is the newly attached amendments that could cause the most problems for the MO sports betting effort.

May, Hoskins, and the rest of the Missouri Senate spent roughly eight hours debating Sen. Tony Luetkeymeyer’s sports betting measure SB30. Hoskins tried to move a combination sportsbook and VLT bill, SB1, but it failed in committee. When it did, he warned that he would obstruct the efforts of the standalone sports betting bill.

May was very vocal and forthright with her frustration that her standalone VLT bill did not gain traction this session. She also very plainly stated that, for her, either VLTs get legalized first or VLTs get tied into sports betting legislation.

“It’s just the absurdity of the conversation and the absurdity in saying that, you know, we don’t want to expand gambling but you’re gonna do sportsbook Come on, they need to stop,” she said.

May and Hoskins both spent lengthy stretches delaying action on the bill but where the real shots were fired were in a range of problematic amendments.

Roughly a dozen different amendments were proposed and, while some failed, several others made their way into the legislation.

Approved amendments included upping the tax rate to 15% and another allowing local DFS operator Real Time Fantasy Sports to have a peer-to-peer wagering platform.

There were also two amendments addressing the current $2 fee land-based casinos pay the state. Both amendments were offered by Sen. Steven Roberts. The first was to adjust that fee, which was established in 1993, to account for inflation. That adjusted rate would be $4.16 a customer and the amendment would allow for the rate to variably adjust to inflation going forward.

Once that amendment passed, Roberts proposed a second amendment applying that $4.16 fee to online sportsbooks. License holders would pay that $4.16 for every time a customer logs in and places a bet, though there would be a max of one $4.16 fee every two hours. That would be a maximum of $49.92 per customer per day. This amendment also passed despite Roberts admitting he knew very little about how sports betting apps work.

Over Luetkemeyer’s objections, the amendment passed, creating a poison pill scenario where the legislation was so untenable it seemed like it could not move forward. Nonetheless, Hoskins and others filibustered to delay a vote while lawmakers continued to pursue some sort of compromise.

That compromise seemed to come when an amendment essentially added Hoskins’ VLT language back into the bill but capped the VLTs per venue to three instead of eight. However, the amendment failed by an 11-20 margin. After the unsuccessful amendment, Luetkemeyer requested to lay the bill on the informal calendar, ending proceedings for the day. It is unclear whether or not he will attempt to pick up the bill at a later date.

The debate today was on SB30, not the comparable House measures HB556 and HB581. The House passed both of those measures and sent them on to the Senate late last month.