State Senator Denny Hoskins Roadblocks Sports Betting in Missouri

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A gated barricade is seen as snow flurries fall outside the Missouri State Capitol Building in Jefferson City, Missouri. Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images/AFP.

Making Missouri sports betting a reality has been challenging. Senator Tony Luetkemeyer is the man behind SB 30, a Senate sports wagering bill that is currently under consideration but was put on the shelf after the session was adjourned.

Missouri Sports Betting in Limbo

Sen. Denny Hoskins has taken his ball and gone home – again – after not getting his way with legalizing video lottery terminals (VLTs) in the state.

The “gray machines” have been a bone of contention operating in a quasi-legal capacity in many midwestern states. However, with the advent of regulated sports betting, states like Kentucky have just put an end to their operations and any convenience store, barroom, or truck stop that is found with them will have the machines confiscated and could face a $25,000 fine.

Missouri has voted down Hoskins’ bills and amendments over the last five sessions and the recent amendment he attached to SB 30, Senator Luetkemeyer’s senate sports betting bill, was also killed by a vote of 20-11 to legalize the VLTs.

Hoskins has commonly used filibustering to gum up the works in the state senate, much to the chagrin of his colleagues, when he doesn’t get his way. Back in February, another of his attempts to legalize VLTs tied with a sports betting bill was voted down, 10-2, in committee. Hoskins immediately began filibustering but stopped a few hours later so that Senate business could be conducted.

“I do respect the Senate, and I know we’ve got quite a few people that have bills that they would like to see discussed today,” Hoskins said as he ended his filibuster. “We’re gonna move forward today and continue this discussion.”

What’s the Issue?

Missouri is now surrounded by seven states that have passed sports betting bills and Missouri stands as the lone holdout primarily due to Hoskins continually going to the mat for the VLTs while most of his colleagues would like the issues of legalizing video lottery terminals and sports betting to be separate entities.

Hoskins believes that licensing and regulating the machines would make them safer for the consumer and it would impose stricter regulations on where the VLTs could be housed, which would be locations where no one under 21 is allowed. He is also acutely aware that his best shot at getting what he wants is to hold sports betting hostage until VLTs are approved.

VLT operators don’t want the casinos to get retail and mobile sports betting in the state because the casinos want VLTs outlawed as they attract a segment of their target audience who can spend their money on these machines instead of traveling to a casino to play slots.

Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, summed it up best when he said, “The (video lottery terminal) people don’t want the casinos to get the sports book, and the casinos don’t want to let the VLTs operate. This is not a hard thing to figure out. A lot of people want to make it more complicated than what it is. I was taught a long time ago, when everyone says it’s not about money, it’s about money.”

*Bookmakers Review will continue to monitor this story and update our readers as events unfold.