JEFFERSON CITY - Online fantasy sports would be exempted from the state's gambling laws under a bill given first round approval by the Missouri House Tuesday, April 5.
But critics charged the games should be taxed.
"We now have an opportunity to do this and we need to have this taxed as the casinos are taxed," Rep. Lyle Rowland, R- Cedarcreek, said when speaking in opposition of the bill. Rowland went further into the state's budget when he said that Missouri has "completely underfunded" education.
"Education was going to be funded because we had all of these proceeds coming in from gaming from the casinos, it was completely underestimated." Rowland said he believes that if fantasy sports were to be taxed as casinos are, the issue of underfunding for education would be on the mend.
"I cannot stand up and say hello to a fourth-grade class in the gallery and say we did not stand up and fight for their cause to have the education formula funded." Rowland said.
Rowland said education funding is not the only reason he expressed opposition to the bill. He said he objects to the fact that there are no penalties explicitly listed in the bill, despite research that proved on-line players were using multiple sites to cheat, which is how these players were winning. "They are stealing money from Missouri citizens in that regard," Rowland said.
Rowland furthered his argument against the bill when he said because the state of Missouri does not allow cake shops to sell cake without being taxed, the state should not allow big-time fantasy sports play to go unregulated. "It is a corporate carve out," he said.
"We're trying to bypass gaming, right? So they're not falling under gamings so that this money is coming into education...correct?" Rep. Genise Monticello, D- St. Louis County, asked the bill sponsor. Bill sponsor, Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, said that he feels putting fantasy sports play into the Department of Professional Registration, Financial Institutions and Insurance will solve the problem.
"I consider this more a game of skill as opposed to a game of chance." Fitzpatrick said when several representatives argued fantasy sports play is equivalent to gambling. "No other state has legislatively assigned this as gambling or gaming," he said.
"In any scenario [this is] gambling." Rep. John Rizzo, D- Kansas City, said to Fitzpatrick. Rizzo said putting money into anything that does not have a certain outcome constitutes gambling.
"You can't tell me if Jamaal Charles is gonna play on Sunday in the first game of the regular season because he might get hurt in the first quarter or he might get hurt in the third, but I can tell you every time I play poker I know how many cards are gonna be in the deck, it's an absolute game of chance." Rizzo said.
Rizzo said he finds it ridiculous that the state would move to pass a bill that would tax the consumer but not the billion dollar companies. "We don't want to make it 21 percent more expensive for the consumer but we want to make it zero percent more expensive for the business."
Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said the Democrats are guilty of wanting to tax anything involving technology. "Our friends on the other side of the aisle...want to put it under the same umbrella of things things that existed 50 or 100 years ago and then they want to tax it." Rowden said that fantasy sports are new technology, meaning they are new to the market and new to the legislature because they simply did not exist 10 years ago.
"This is innovation, this is the free market working and this is technology and this is our response to that technology coming before us. There have been misguided attempts by attorney generals around the country to try and make this something that it isn't and so this is our attempt to say hey look in Missouri, we welcome innovation," Rowden said in support of the bill.
At the end of the hearing, the I's had it and the amendment to the bill excluding fantasy sports from gambling regulations was passed.