After the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down a federal law that disallowed sports betting in most of the country, multiple bills that would legalize gambling on sports have been filed in the Missouri Legislature.
One of them, House Bill 119, was pre-filed in December by Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage. The law that the Supreme Court overturned in May 2018 had said states could not authorize sports betting. Smith said he introduced his bill before he was named chairman of the House Budget Committee and that his position on that committee has been his main focus since the Legislature convened in January.
But Smith said he is supportive of legalizing sports gambling in general and that the legislative process would need to determine the state's structure for doing so with respect to fees, taxes and how and where bets can be made.
"Sports betting in Missouri would be a new thing," he said. "Folks want to do these things out in the light of day and structure them and regulate them, and make sure the integrity of those games and experiences is protected."
Smith's bill proposes a tax of 6.25 percent on receipts from wagers to go into the state's Gaming Proceeds for Education Fund.
State Sen. Bill White, R-Joplin, said he is "not a fan of sports betting." He said the bill that has been introduced in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, also deals with video lottery terminals, which he says "aren't authorized in our statutes."
"I'm not in favor of it, generally," White said. "I've got to look at the bills and see what amendments are being put on it. It was introduced to the floor and talked about for a little bit and then we laid it over, so there's a lot of discussions going on."
White also said he takes issue with a provision in Smith's bill that arranges for "royalties" to be paid to college and professional sports governing bodies. The bill specifies, though, that those royalties would be paid by the holder of the gaming or betting certificate, not the state.
Neither sports betting bill has progressed beyond the committee stage, though Smith's House bill is scheduled for a hearing on Wednesday.
At least a couple of local sports fans on Friday said they have placed casual bets on sporting events between friends and thought they might participate in formal wagering if it were legalized.
Bobbie Washington was catching highlights of Thursday night's Houston Rockets game at Hackett Hot Wings on Friday in downtown Joplin. He said he has some reservations about gambling, but that he may place moderate bets if doing so becomes legal.
"I just don't gamble unless it's just like scratchers," he said. "But I guess I would (bet on sports) ... Most people do, 90 percent of the people I know, they will bet. They'll bet on sports games."
Washington said he's primarily a fan of the Rockets and the NFL's Washington Redskins.
Thomas Grizzle, donning a Kansas Jayhawks hat, was also sitting Friday in the sports bar portion of Hackett's. He also said he would be likely to place sports bets if the state legalizes doing so.
"I'm interested in it," he said. "It's something, I've made kind of special trips to Vegas for in the past, so it'd be a lot more convenient."