State Rep. Bart Korman (R) spoke last week to the Warren County Rotary Club about his proposed bill to allow sports wagering in Missouri.
Korman in January introduced House Bill 2320, which would allow sports wagering through licensed casinos, fantasy sports operators and the Missouri Lottery, on the condition of the federal government granting states the right to regulate sports wagering.
The green light was essentially given last month when the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) by a vote of 6-3.
Five states — New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware and Mississippi — had already passed some form of sports gambling bill in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s ruling, and Delaware began taking wagers Tuesday afternoon.
“Missouri sometimes lags on different policies, and I’ve tried to put some stuff out there to get on the forefront,” Korman said. “We’ve dragged our feet on a few things over the years, and I want to be out in front here and get the discussion going. I don’t want Missouri waiting 20 years for this.”
Korman’s motivation for the bill is simple.
Wagers are already being placed on sports — either in Las Vegas or illegally online — so why not keep the money in Missouri?
“A number of my constituents like to gamble,” he said. “And it’s not always legal. A lot of people go to places like Las Vegas, too. And that’s revenue we can keep here instead of letting it go someplace else.”
Korman would like to see wagering done through the Missouri Lottery, and he believes the state could earn up to $40 million annually.
“I envision you being able to bet on a mobile app or at your local grocery store where you can already buy lottery tickets,” he said. “Maybe you could bet a Pick 3 plus the spread of the Cardinals game.”
With the Supreme Court’s ruling coming just four days before the end of the House of Representatives session last month, Korman wasn’t able to get the bill to a vote.
But he believes it will gain traction soon.
“I think it will be one of the biggest topics of discussion because it’s new, it’s got revenue, and there are a lot of players involved here that have clout and recognition,” he said. “Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, the Lottery and casinos are involved here, and everyone has heard of those groups.”
According to a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll in early May, 50 percent of Americans are in favor of legalized sports betting.
There will be hurdles, however.
Spokespersons for the major professional sports leagues say the leagues would need an “integrity fee” of 1 percent, an idea in which states have been divided on and Korman rejects.
“Teams would basically get a one percent cut off of every bet placed, which is actually almost as much as the tax would be,” Korman said of the proposals. “So teams would probably be getting more than the state depending on the profits. Because if you take a cut off the top, it doesn’t matter if casinos make money or lose money.”
Korman also admitted there would have to be a “little bit of a culture change” among parts of the state as citizens get used to the idea of sports wagering.
“I don’t think it will be too tough, but it’s always a hurdle,” he said. “The lottery wasn’t 100 percent accepted when it came in. When the casino votes were out there, there was some resistance to that, too. So you’re going to have some resistance with things like this, but obviously the lottery and casino votes passed years ago with the majority of citizens in favor it. So I assume that type of support would continue.”
With states like New Jersey preparing for legalized sports wagering this fall, politicians should have time to see how the system could work in Missouri.
Korman hopes the Show-Me State joins the next wave of wagering as early as 2019.
“I didn’t bet on it this year,” he said with a grin, “but I would be betting on it next year.”