Missouri is one of twelve states without legalized sports betting

Missouri is one of a dozen states where sports betting remains illegal more than five years after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the rule to be enacted.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In his suburban home in St. Louis, Brett Koenig can pull out his smartphone and open a sports betting app. But he can’t place a bet. He is blocked by a pop-up message indicating that he is not in a legal location.

Missouri is one of a dozen states where sports betting remains illegal more than five years after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the rule to be enacted.

“It just seems silly that everyone else can do this and we can’t,” said Koenig, who has launched a social media campaign called “Let MO Play” to drum up support for legal sports betting in his home state.

Other states have collectively collected over $4 billion in taxes from more than $280 billion in sports betting since 2018. Vermont will become the final state to accept sports betting starting January 11th. However, the chances of expansion to other countries in 2024 appear questionable due to political resistance and the sometimes competing financial interests of existing gaming providers.

“The few states that have not yet legalized are last for one reason: They all have multiple barriers,” said Becca Giden, policy director at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, a California-based consulting firm.

After a “whirlwind” of expansion, the playing field for further sports betting has narrowed to a group of states where various stakeholders “want to get the most out of the legalization framework, so to speak,” said Chris Cylke, senior vice president of government relations at the American Gaming Association , which represents the industry. “So that can lead to tensions.”

The states where sports betting remains illegal are Alabama, Alaska, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

California and Texas, the country’s two most populous states, would be the biggest wins for sports bettors. However, it’s not particularly likely that none of them will take it over in 2024.

California voters overwhelmingly defeated two rival sports betting initiatives last year after supporters and opponents raised a record $463 million. The advertising deluge was fueled by divisions between online gaming companies, tribal casinos and horse racing tracks. Those tensions continue as Native American tribes object to a new sports betting initiative seeking signatures on the 2024 ballot.

The planned sale of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team to a politically active family that runs the Las Vegas Sands casino company has sparked speculation about a larger push for legal sports betting in Texas. But the state Legislature is not in session properly in 2024, and Texas has no way to place citizen initiatives on the ballot.

Neighboring Oklahoma already has numerous casinos run by tribes. Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt announced a plan in November to allow in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and online sports betting through state-licensed platforms. But his plan does not appear to be gaining support from the tribes with which Stitt has fallen out.

Minnesota may be the second-most likely state to allow sports betting, but that would likely require a bipartisan vote in the Senate, where Democrats hold a narrow one-seat lead over Republicans. Over the past year, lawmakers have struggled to resolve differences between tribal casinos, which are seeking exclusive rights to online and in-person sports betting, and horse racing tracks, which are also seeking a larger share of the gambling market. But they will try again.

“From the tribes’ perspective, the moment is now, and they want this to happen this year,” said Democratic state Sen. Matt Klein, a sponsor of the sports betting legislation.

Efforts to legalize sports betting in Missouri have repeatedly stalled in the state Senate, where Republican Sen. Denny Hoskins insists it must be accompanied by regulation of legally questionable slot-style video games played in convenience stores and truck stops have appeared. Casinos are against it.

Online sports betting companies, casinos, professional sports teams and video game terminals have banded together to hire about 80 lobbyists in Missouri.

The St. Louis Cardinals are also leading a coalition of professional sports teams in the state proposing an initiative petition to add sports betting to the November ballot. But Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden casts doubt on the prospects of both the initiative petition and the legislation, complaining that Missouri “could probably lose some pretty significant economic activity.”

Data suggests Missourians are interested in sports betting. From mid-June to mid-December, technology company GeoComply Solutions processed over 13.5 million location checks from 280,000 devices in Missouri attempting to access mobile sports betting sites. About 48% tried to use sports betting in Kansas and 40% in Illinois. They were prevented from doing so.

When Koenig wants to bet on sports, he drives 45 minutes from his home in Missouri to Illinois. He is not alone.

GeoComply processed 42,000 location checks from 1,900 online sports betting accounts that traveled from Missouri to an Illinois border town over the past six months. When the Kansas City Chiefs hosted the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 10, GeoComply counted 786 location checks from 570 sports betting accounts traveling from border towns in Missouri to Kansas.

“It’s very easy for people to go over, place their bets and then go back home and watch the game,” said GeoComply spokesman John Pappas. “We see this thousands of times a day, a week, in every state where it is not legal.”

In Georgia, Republican Governor Brian Kemp has expressed willingness to legalize sports betting. But the effort stalled last year when the Senate rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed voters to decide the issue. The debate is complex, as proponents of casinos and horse racing want to use sports betting to legalize these forms of gambling as well.

Although there are still uncertainties, Georgia could be the most realistic candidate for allowing sports betting in 2024, Giden said. She expects well-financed lobbying from online betting providers and sports teams.

Legalizing sports betting in Alabama would also require a voter-approved constitutional amendment. In the Legislature, sports betting proposals are intertwined with broader efforts to expand gambling beyond the current tribal casinos, dog tracks and nonprofit bingo operators. None of them have been successful so far.

Republican Sen. Greg Albritton said some lawmakers are working on new gambling legislation that would include casinos, a lottery and sports betting.

“Whatever happens, if I have my way, this issue will be debated this year,” he said.

Associated Press writer Kim Chandler wrote from Montgomery, Alabama.

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