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Missouri lawmakers push to legalize sports betting

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

It's Super Bowl week and last year, over 23 million Americans wagered a record $4.3 billion on the Super Bowl, but none of that happened in the state of Missouri.

Two Missouri lawmakers have introduced bills to legalize online sports gambling in the state. State House Rep. Phil Christofanelli and state Senate Rep. Tony Luetkemeyer have introduced bills in their respective chambers to allow for mobile sports wagering. If both bills pass, Gov. Michael Parson would need to sign the potential legislation in order for it to become law.

However, both Christofanelli and Luetkemeyer have introduced sports betting bills that have failed in the past.

"I filed the sports wagering legislation for the last three or four years that I can remember. And, you know, we've made it through committee a number of times, but for one reason or another, it's hit different blockades along the way," Christofanelli said.

Following a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision, 32 states now have some form of legal sports betting.

The legalization in Missouri is estimated to bring about $50 million in tax revenue to the state, which it could use towards schools and social services.

"It's a huge revenue opportunity for the state of Missouri. I believe that the more revenue we can bring in through these sort of voluntary entertainment activities, the less we need to worry and rely on things like an income tax, Christofanelli said.

While Missouri is not yet seeing these revenues, surrounding states are. Sports betting in Illinois generated $57 million in tax revenue for fiscal year 2021.

Missouri resident, Adam Sharp, says he has a couple of friends that actually travel out of state to make sports bets and he has contemplated doing it himself.

"My understanding is a large percentage of our gaming taxes go to schools and improving schools. So as Missourians, I think we should be able to take care of our own and use our own taxes to better our own school systems rather than bettering Illinois schools especially since we don't live there. I think we should be able to use our own tax dollars for our own citizens," Sharp said.

Missouri’s six professional sports teams, along with the state’s existing casino operators, reached an agreement at the end of January to support the legalization.

St. Louis. Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III issued a statement saying, “We hope to find consensus during this current legislative session to bring Missouri in line with 32 other states, six of them being our neighbors.”

"The more support and the more consensus you get from all the stakeholders in the community, the more likely it is we're going to get to the governor's desk," Christofanelli said.

There are still arguments that legalization is not the best thing. According to Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, roughly 6.6 million people struggle with gambling addiction.

However, Christofanelli said part of the legalization is to help those who may have addictions.

"The reality is right now that sports wagering is occurring in the state of Missouri, it's done on completely unregulated apps. We have a number of protections that are in our bill to ensure that only responsible adults are engaging in sports wagering, and I think that, that a regulated sports wagering environment is better than what we have. Currently, there's also money in this bill that will be set aside to deal with addicted gamblers," Christofanelli said.

Missouri’s Problem Gambling Helpline (888-238-7633) is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to offer support, resources and referrals to anyone affected by problem gambling.

The legislature has until the end of the session in May to pass a bill.

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Chanel Porter

Chanel joined ABC 17 News in January 2021 after graduating from Penn State University. She enjoys traveling and a daily iced coffee.

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