Top Missouri gaming officials appeared before a state legislative committee to push for legalized sports betting. After noting a record year for lottery sales, the officials contend that the time is ripe to capitalize on wagering.

But lawmakers in Jefferson City have failed to make headway on Missouri Expansion on any bill to open up the state’s gambling laws. Missouri Lottery Commission Executive Director May Scheve Reardon told politicians the state is missing out on potential revenues.

Why Does Missouri Not Have Legal Sports Betting?

Missouri features full-service casinos, a state lottery, and an unregulated gray market of video gaming terminals. However, sports wagering is not regulated, despite advancements in neighboring states. Illinois, Iowa, and Tennessee now offer online and mobile sportsbooks statewide. Nebraska will also soon offer in-person, retail sports betting.

patrick mahomes texans chiefs
Chiefs fans need to cross state lines to legally bet on their favorite team.

Politicians in the Show Me State have various reasons for not advancing gambling expansion. For one, there is some deep-seated conservative opposition to any and all forms of legal gambling. But a real problem is the lobbying power of the video gaming terminal manufacturers and distributors.

Despite a push by the state Highway Patrol to shut down illegal gaming terminals, local prosecutors remain reluctant to pursue cases. And since one of the largest makers of the terminals is located in the St. Louis suburbs, lawmakers have little incentive to shut down an industry that employs their constituents.

Record Lottery Sales Highlight Market for Sportsbooks

Missouri lottery receipts were up 20% during the 2020 fiscal year, which ended June 30. With over $1.8 billion in sales, the state lottery netted approximately $345 million.

aerial view of Vancouver Canucks v St Louis Blues nhl game
St. Louis Blues backers likely cross the Mississippi River into Illinois to bet right now.

Lottery officials believe the upswing in ticket sales indicates that Missourians have an appetite for more gambling. The state’s casinos also saw an increase in business.

Missouri Gaming Commission General Counsel Ed Grewach said that, in spite of fewer people visiting casinos, those gamblers are spending more per person. This led to over $1.7 billion gambling revenue across the state’s 13 casinos.

Online Lottery Sales Could Also Be Legalized

One of the purposes of the recent gambling-related legislative committee session was preparing for a push to reform Missouri’s gambling laws. Interested lawmakers hope that sports betting can be part of a comprehensive reshuffling of the gambling landscape.

The lottery officials who testified supported not only wagering but online lottery ticket sales. Virginia has highlighted it as a story of online ticket sales success, noting almost a billion in sales in 2020.

Still, taking on the power video gaming terminal lobby in Missouri will be difficult. Right now, those machines do not raise any tax revenue for the state. Bringing them out of the gray market and regulating their use could be a windfall for the state. Combined with opening Missouri to the world of legal sports betting, next year may see large changes for gamblers.

James Guill

James Guill is a former professional poker player who writes fro about poker, sports, casinos, gaming legislation and the online gambling industry in general. His past experience includes working with IveyPoker, PokerNews, PokerJunkie, Bwin, and the Ongame Network. From 2006-2009 he participated in multiple tournaments including the 37th and 38th World Series of Poker (WSOP). James lives in Virginia and he has a side business where he picks and sells vintage and antique items.

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