Show-Me State Aims To See MO Sports Betting In 2021, But Is Illinois On Board?

Written By Derek Helling on December 10, 2020 - Last Updated on April 6, 2021

In Illinois, the sports betting market has risen meteorically, already climbing to the fourth-most lucrative jurisdiction in the US. However, if efforts to legalize sports betting in Missouri prove successful, it could put a damper on that success.

It’s uncertain to what degree, but that could cut into the number of Missouri bettors crossing the Mississippi River to place legal wagers in Illinois.

Nevertheless, it’s not clear whether legalization of MO sports betting will happen in 2021.

Latest on Missouri sports betting legalization

Three Missouri senators have pre-filed bills for the next legislative session in the Show-Me State. The immediate prospects for each one won’t start to become clear until after the calendar turns to 2021 and the body assigns the bills to committees.

Those three bills may not be alone for long either. So far, there’s no companion legislation in the MO House of Representatives for any of the bills. It’s also possible that members of the Missouri House may submit their own versions.

Last year, the MO Legislature considered a total of six different bills at various lengths. None of them actually made it to the floor in either chamber for a full vote, however.

At issue was the inclusion of language that explicitly authorized video lottery terminal (VLT) gambling, similar to what is available in IL. Right now, it’s a legal gray area in MO and available in a few places.

Backers of that proposal essentially held the sports betting legalization “hostage,” saying they wouldn’t vote for any proposal that didn’t include VLT regulation. Opponents held their ground as well, expressing concerns that VLTs would cannibalize the state’s casinos.

It’s too early to tell whether these issues will stymie legalization again in 2021.

How legalization in MO could affect IL operators

To some degree, Illinois sports betting operators could be benefitting from St. Louisans crossing the river to bet. That could especially apply to DraftKings at Casino Queen. The Illinois casino sits only a few minutes away from the Mississippi River’s banks.

That’s how the divide between online and retail sportsbooks could widen. If the legal framework allows, DraftKings Sportsbook could launch online in MO as well, so the overall online component wouldn’t see much decline.

For the brick-and-mortar sportsbook at the casino, however, losing interstate traffic could have a significant impact. It may be a while before those properties get an idea of how much.

Even if legislators are successful in their efforts sometime next year, it could take until 2022 to roll out sportsbooks in Missouri. Additionally, there’s no guarantee that the regulations will allow MO operators to compete with those in IL.

For example, two of the three pre-filed bills contain a royalty to professional sports leagues that operators would have to pay. That could limit operators’ ability to post competitive odds in their markets.

IL sportsbook operators will watch to see what unfolds in MO next year. If legislative efforts prove successful, they could have new competition for handle in St. Louis.

Photo by Charlie Riedel / AP
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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