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Pro sports teams, casinos urge Senate committee to legalize sports betting

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As lawmakers mull the possibility of joining a growing number of states that allow gambling on sports, a Senate committee held a hearing this week for two such bills approved by the House.

“We all support sports wagering in Missouri as a way to increase engagement with our fans and provide a fun and exciting new way to enjoy sports, which means so much to our communities,” Bill DeWitt III, president of the St. Louis Cardinals, testified on Tuesday. He said he spoke on behalf of the Missouri Pro Sports Team Coalition, which also includes the St. Louis Blues, Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City Royals, the KC Current and the new St. Louis City Soccer Club. “We also know that sports wagering will generate a significant new source of tax revenue in Missouri, whereas now currently illegal operators are performing outside of the bounds of regulation and, of course, not paying taxes.”

Many of Missouri’s neighboring states, and 32 states overall, have legalized sports betting. Supporters say gambling can add to the excitement of sports, with state-sanctioned wagering creating a regulated experience with consumer protections. It would also create a new revenue source for businesses and the state.

“Our organization believes the legalization of sports betting in Missouri will further energize and engage our fan base,” said Adam Sachs, Senior Vice President & Chief Legal Officer to the Royals.

Steve Chapman, Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer for the Blues, also testified in support.

“We were fortunate a couple of years ago to win the Stanley Cup championship, and we were able to because we had the ability to spend to the salary cap limit,” said Chapman. “So, for us to be able to continue to compete at that level, it is important for us to continue to drive revenue so that we are able to do so.”

Legislators have included language to ensure that any new law would not harm the state’s successful sports franchises. It also ensures Missouri’s casino industry and betting websites are part of the balance. In addition, lawmakers are developing a workable tax structure and plan to set aside funding to combat gambling addiction.

“These bills are part of the product of an historic compromise, compromise that not only involved the overwhelming majority of the state’s local casinos and beloved sports franchises, but also involved the mobile sportsbooks and the professional sports leagues,” said Jeremy Kudon, president of the Sports Betting Alliance.

This comprehensive approach has led to united action to pass sports wagering legislation this session.

The measures discussed Tuesday were House Bills 2502 and 2556. Ross Lien, Missouri Chamber director of legislative affairs, testified in support. For more information on this topic, contact Lien at 573-634-3511 or rlien@mochamber.com.

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