Missouri legislators consider legalizing sports betting

Missouri (KMOV) – Fifty million people are expected to bet on the upcoming Super Bowl, but despite the demand, none of those people are placing legal bets in Missouri.

If a St. Louis resident wants to bet legally now, they have to drive to Illinois and bet over the phone or in a casino.

But this may change. The Missouri legislature is considering a bill that would legalize sports gambling in the state.

John McGee likes to bet on every major American sport, and he makes frequent trips from St. Louis to the FanDuel Sportsbook in Collinsville.

“I come here twice, at least three times a week,” McGee said.

He will soon be able to bet from home.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives held a hearing in Jefferson City on two bills that would fully legalize and regulate sports betting in Missouri.

“We have this weird system where people have to drive across state lines to participate in an activity, which doesn’t make sense,” said Rep. Phil Cristofanelli (R-St. Peters), the bill’s sponsor.

Cristofanelli calls the current system ridiculous and says that the state will lose money.

“That means all of the revenue associated with those bets is going to other states and not to the state of Missouri, and that’s really unfortunate,” he said.

Casey Clark Sr., vice president of the American Gambling Association, said one of its members flagged people trying to bet on sports in Missouri after Kansas legalized sports betting.

“They’ve got over 5,000 pins in Missouri for people trying to bet,” Clark said.

He said that will happen whether the Legislature creates a new law or not.

“People in St. Louis are betting on sports today, they’re betting on sports in the Super Bowl in Missouri, they’re just doing it illegally,” Clark said.

And it looks like there will be a lot of revenue.

The Office of Legislative Research projects anywhere from $21 million to $29 million in tax revenue annually from legalized sports betting.

Much of it will go to education, giving lawmakers more flexibility in other areas of the budget to add funds.

Sports betting is currently legal in Illinois, Arkansas, Kansas and Iowa.(KMOV staff)

Some Metro East businesses are not benefiting.

“To be able to sit at home and do that, as opposed to coming to the state line, absolutely hurts us,” said Melissa Helton, general manager and president of FanDuel Sportsbook and Horseracing.

Helton admits that if Missouri legalizes sports gambling, they will likely lose customers, but with the arrival of a new casino and sports bar space at the sports book, they will be fine.

“I’m not too worried about it, yeah, it’s going to take some of our customers away, but we’re still going to make up,” Helton said.

As for McGee, he’s counting down the days when he doesn’t have to drive to a casino.

“If I can just do it from my house, that would be a nice convenience,” McGee said.

Missouri will be the 37th state to legalize sports betting, joining most of its border states.

Last year, the Missouri House passed a bill that would have legalized sports gambling in the state, but the bill stalled in the Senate.

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