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BETTING

Missouri Celebrates 30 Years of Casino Gaming but Still Trying to Approve Sports Betting

Kansas City Missouri skyline general view
Union Station and the Kansas City skyline are lit in Kansas City Chiefs colors prior to Super Bowl LV on February 01, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. Jamie Squire/Getty Images/AFP

The Missouri Gaming Commission took a victory lap recently regarding its 30 years overseeing gaming in the Show Me State but sports betting remains stalled despite it being offered in neighboring states.

Gaming Brings Revenue

Casinos and slots throughout Missouri have flourished and so too have the state’s tax coffers as those proceeds have reaped big bucks. The casino admission charges are also directed to the state’s designated programs as $1 billion has been earmarked for veterans’ affairs, higher education, and problem gambling programs.

A financial snapshot of last fiscal year revealed that $11.2 million went to the Veterans Commission, $5 million went to financial assistance for higher education, and $4 million was sent to the Missouri National Guard Trust Fund. The state’s Compulsive Gamblers Fund received $100,000 according to the report.

Benefit for Veterans

Moreover, 270,000 funeral honors over the last 24 years have been funded via gaming revenue according to the Missouri National Guard.

Paul Kirchhoff with the Missouri Veterans Commission, stated, “It’s allowed for the construction of five cemeteries throughout the state, veterans cemeteries throughout the state, which is free burial for Missouri’s veterans and their spouses and any dependents.”

The casinos in Missouri pay a 21% tax on revenues and that money is split as follows:

  • 90% goes into the Missouri Gaming Proceeds for Education Fund.
  • 10% is directed to the city or county in which the casino is located.

Since 1994 over $7.6 billion has gone to the education fund with $363 million earmarked to it in FY2023 alone.

Sports Betting Stalled

There is plenty of support for mobile and retail sports betting from legislators and the state’s sports franchises. However, it hasn’t been able to get off the ground despite thousands of Missourians crossing state lines to bet in neighboring states. Any tax revenue collected goes to those jurisdictions while Missouri just watches the money cross state lines.

The House has approved a sports betting bill but it has been stalled in the Senate. Professional sports franchises like the Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, and St. Louis Blues have all teamed up to get a petition approved to go to the voters. A 10% sports betting tax has been discussed but as of this moment, nothing is imminent.

Sharing the Wealth

Missouri Gaming Commission Chair Jan Zimmerman said whether sports betting is ultimately legalized or not, the Commission will continue to pass the money along.

“But I feel like we will continue to be successful and will continue to provide the benefits to the organizations that we already have, regardless of if sports betting happens,” Zimmerman said.

Despite the Missouri House voting 118-35 in favor of sports betting legislation, the Senate never even deigned to hear the bill. The hot-button topic has been stalled in the GOP-controlled Senate due to some lawmakers’ refusal to pair sports betting with the regulation of gray market machines, currently dotting Missouri’s convenience stores and taverns.

These machines have all the optics of slots but skirt the law by calling themselves skill games because the outcome of each spin is not necessarily random. Senator Denny Hoskins wants them legalized and taxed before he will approve any sports betting legislation while others refuse to link the two under one bill.

“My biggest fear is we have a lot of unregulated and untaxed gray machines. It would put everybody on the same playing field,” Hoskins said.

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