Should Missouri Fully Legalize Gambling?

(STL.News) The question of whether states across the US should legalize gambling has been a thorny subject for decades.  The debate has, however, intensified since 2018, when the US Supreme Court overturned the previous PASPA ruling, which had effectively outlawed sports betting across the country.

While the new legislation related specifically to sportsbooks, it also helped to bring casino play into sharp focus too.  Many states have since moved to open sports betting halls and new casino establishments while allowing online activities in both areas.  In Missouri, however, those in power have yet to fully embrace the new landscape.

The Current State of Play

In Missouri right now, it is possible to set up a brick-and-mortar casino, but this must be done on or near a body of water.  It’s a very specific ruling, but it’s certainly not been prohibitive as there are currently 13 casinos available across the state.

In addition to this ruling, there is an official state lottery while it is also possible to set up games such as poker and craps, providing that profits go to a charitable organization.

In terms of online betting and casino play, there are strict regulations in place within the state. It is not currently possible for prospective companies to set up a sportsbook or online casino with a Missouri license. However, residents can play with an offshore operator providing that company is willing to allow them to do so and meet the respective age requirements.

Why so?

There is a method behind the ruling that places physical casinos on or near a body of water.  In part, it’s a historical approach and one that dates back to the early 1900s when gaming took place on steamships.  Moreover, in the present day, having a casino away from the main urban landscape limits any social and geographical impact.

In most areas of the world where casino play and sports betting are highly restricted, the governing bodies also like to remove any element of spontaneity.  Going away from land in Missouri requires a planned journey, and that’s another reason why casinos are out to the water. Overall, the approach is one of tolerance, but would there be greater benefits to the state of Missouri that was more welcoming to the industry?

Starting with the Obvious

As other states in America are aware, there are pros and cons in regard to legalizing gambling.  While there are downsides to the process, the benefits can often outweigh the concerns, and one of the most obvious plus points relates to revenue.

By claiming taxes from operators, along with profits from any state-run and licensed companies, significant income can be added to a state’s coffers.

On a nationwide scale, it’s been stated that adding sports betting halls to casino premises can produce an extra $2.9 billion to profits made by those establishments.  Another eye-watering statistic reveals that Americans wager some $5 billion on the Super Bowl.

If Missouri is looking for more direct comparisons, it can consider early revenue figures from Pennsylvania.  Having relaxed their own gambling laws in 2019, Pennsylvania is said to have collected average revenue in the region of $3 billion in each of the following two years.  Those are impressive figures, but it’s not just about the most obvious factor of money.

Keeping it Above Board

In certain parts of the world, gambling may either be highly restricted or possibly outlawed altogether, but that doesn’t make the practice go away. In such environments, illegal practices continue with unlicensed sources.

By legalizing the industry in all its forms, customers can now play safety with registered operators. Many online casinos and sports betting companies such as have been established since the early days of online betting, and that longevity has allowed them to build up that key element of trust.  Safety and security measures are outlined, and details of how these operators keep personal information out of the way of third parties are also underlined.  The issue of player safety through legalized platforms is, therefore, another key benefit.

The Future

The current position within the State of Missouri is clear, while the potential benefits of legalized gambling have also been outlined.  The obvious question now is whether the landscape is likely to change in the near future.

Many reports claim that the state government is very open to the idea of allowing more flexibility, particularly in terms of online play.  As we’ve seen with the Super Bowl, a major event can bring in astronomical revenue figures, but, at present, more than 90% of that income is heading offshore.

While there may be some intent, there is no hard evidence to suggest that things will change in the first half of 2021.  Even if an announcement is made in the opening six months of the New Year, it will be several months before legislation is acted upon.

Residents of Missouri must wait until any future regulation is made but, with many offshore sportsbooks open to them, they do have choices.  If anyone is missing out, then it’s the state governors who are without the exceptional revenue streams that the industry can provide.

Relaxing legislation is a process that should never be taken lightly but, while there can be downsides, the benefits to Missouri of a more open landscape would be immense.  States such as New Jersey have benefitted significantly, and the following suit could bring similar benefits to the state of Missouri.