Chiefs fans celebrate the team's first Super Bowl win in 50 years during Kansas City's championship parade on Feb. 5, 2020. (Chase Castor/The Beacon)

An estimated one in five Americans made some sort of bet on the outcome of the Kansas City Chiefs vs. the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl last weekend. Those participating in sports betting were expected to put $16 million on the line. And while the game featured a Missouri team, none of the sports betting came from inside Missouri. 

The Kansas Legislature legalized sports betting last year and vowed to use some of the revenue to recruit the Chiefs across state lines. In the eyes of many Missouri lawmakers, that still-dim prospect has only illuminated wasted opportunity and possible tax revenue left behind for the Show-Me state. 

In Jefferson City, legalizing sports betting is considered a top priority in the 2023 legislative session across party lines. On Wednesday night, two bills to legalize sports betting had hearings for the first time. Sports teams and other stakeholders showed up to express support. State Rep. Ashley Aune, a Platte County Democrat, said the issue of sports betting is one of the top things she’s heard from her constituents. 

“My constituents want this,” Aune said. “I spent a lot of time last year speaking with folks in my district and what I heard from honestly more people than I expected was, ‘Why haven’t we passed sports gambling yet? Why can’t we do that in Missouri? My neighbors in Kansas can do it. Our neighbors in Illinois can do it. We are literally surrounded by folks who can participate in this industry, and we cannot do it.’” 

Competition with Kansas is top of mind for Missouri’s lawmakers

According to new data provided to The Beacon from GeoComply, a company that manages sports betting apps to ensure that bettors are placing bets from legal states, from Sept. 8 to Jan. 31, the company blocked approximately 8.7 million Missourians attempting to place sports bets in states where it is legal. 

Of the states that border Missouri, only Kentucky has not legalized sports betting. According to the data, 46% of the blocked attempts came from people inside Missouri trying to place bets with sportsbooks legal in Kansas, while 39% of the attempts were Missourians trying to access Illinois sportsbooks. 

When the Chiefs squared off with the Cincinnati Bengals for the AFC championship two weeks ago, the group blocked approximately 4,571 transactions from the area surrounding GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. It blocked approximately 136,000 transactions statewide on the same day. 

The data shows the high demand to place bets coming from Missourians, state Rep. Dan Houx, a Republican from Warrensburg, said during the bill’s hearing. 

“This is already happening in the state,” Houx said. “We’re missing out on taxpayer dollars and residual taxpayer dollars, meaning people go across state lines, not only placing bets, but they’re spending money on other things like gas, dinner, that type of thing.” 

Under both bills, most of the revenue Missouri earns from legalizing sports betting would go toward education in the state. Both pieces of legislation would put a 10% tax on the gross revenue that comes from sports wagering, which would be put into a new fund called the Gaming Proceeds for Education Fund. 

According to the fiscal notes for the legislation, the state could see upwards of $21.5 million total revenue from sports betting, with anywhere from $19.5 million to $22 million going to the state education fund each year.  

But in Kansas, early estimates on how much revenue the state would see turned out to be overly ambitious. The state so far has pulled in just over $2 million in revenue, and 80% of that amount is designated to be used for efforts to convince the Chiefs to call Kansas their new home. 

The potentially rocky path forward for sports betting in Missouri

Sports betting was on the verge of passage in the Missouri legislature’s 2022 session. But fights over video lottery terminals, or VLTs,  the small gaming machines often seen in gas stations and convenience stores around the state, stalled discussion. 

Generally, casinos want to limit the availability of VLTs, which are currently unregulated and not a part of the Missouri Lottery system. State Sen. Denny Hoskins’ adamance about including VLTs in sports betting legislation in 2022 played a major role in derailing the bill. Hoskins, a Warrensburg Republican, wants to include the unregulated terminals in a sports betting bill this year.  

Hoskins has introduced a similar bill to last year’s, which would include the lottery terminals in the sports wagering discussion. Hoskins’ bill would place a 36% tax on revenues that come from VLTs. His bill would put a 10% tax in place for revenues that come from sports betting. 

So far Hoskins’ bill has not had a committee hearing, but it was referred to the Senate appropriations committee. 

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MEG CUNNINGHAM is The Beacon’s Missouri Statehouse reporter. Previously, Meg worked as a national politics reporter for ABC News in Washington, D.C., where she covered campaigns and elections. Meg is...