Missouri lawmakers will release a new report on gambling on Monday. The report comes after months of deliberation of video gambling machines and sports betting opportunities in the state.
Tackling unregulated gambling
State Rep. Dan Shaul, who led the seven-member special lawmaker committee on gambling, said that Missouri has a problem with unregulated gambling. He said,
“This isn’t something I want to kick down the road for another three or four years because all it’s going to do is hurt us on both sides of the aisle.”
The committee focused on video lottery terminals (VLTs), often known as gray machines. These machines operate in a regulatory gray area. Shaul said that the people of the state like gambling on VLTs because of which the state is losing millions of dollars every year. Located mostly in convenience stores, these machines can make gambling more addictive and easily accessible. There are an estimated 14,000 VLTs spread across the state.
Some of the terminals were seized by officials in Platte County. They are now planning to run the first case against VLTs in the state. However, the Supreme Court may not give its judgment on the issue before 2021.
Are gaming machines a threat?
According to Rep. Wes Rogers, gaming machines or VLTs are clearly illegal. He thinks that these machines would chip away at the casino revenues. These establishments employ 6,000 people across the state and earned $1.7 billion in revenue last year. The Democrat has four casinos located within or near his district. He said that VLTs are simply shifting revenue away. Because of the lack of regulation, nobody can say for sure if they are following fair policies.
Both Rogers and Shaul believe that the state could lose many more millions if they don’t legalize sports gambling soon. However, they disagree on the actual impact of VLTs and sports betting on state revenues. The lawmakers pointed to the neighboring states of Arkansas, Iowa, and Illinois. All have regulated sports gambling now, which would further reduce Missouri revenue. They believe that neighboring states will also cause some job losses in the cities.
According to the gaming commission, the state could earn about $100 million in gambling revenue. However, professional sports leaders like PGA, NBA, and MLB disagree on the exact figures. They think that the state would only bring in $40 million after a royalty fee for official league data. Rogers, on the other hand, believes that the revenue could be close to $50 million.