Missouri voters might get a chance to weigh in on sports betting if state lawmakers fail to pass legislation again next year.
Last week, the Missouri Pro Sports Coalition filed eight proposals with the Missouri Secretary of State to amend the state constitution to allow for Missouri sportsbooks. If approved by the Secretary of State, the petitions must receive at least 8% of registered voters’s signatures in six of eight Missouri districts, a minimum of approximately 172,000 signatures.
St. Louis Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III told LSR this summer that the ballot proposals were coming. DeWitt also said he does not foresee much change at the legislative level, which has seen sports betting bills fall short two straight years because of Sen. Denny Hoskins‘s desire to include video lottery terminals in the legislation.
“The coalition believes that legal sports wagering is a way to increase engagement with our fans and provides a new source of tax revenue for the state that is currently going to adjacent states or illegal operators,” according to a statement this week from the St. Louis Cardinals. “Although we would prefer to achieve this goal through the legislative process and will continue to work with stakeholders to advance a responsible sports wagering law to that end, the coalition has begun work to put the issue on the ballot before Missouri voters in 2024 by filing initiative petition language with the Secretary of State’s office.
We believe that this initiative petition language provides for a reasonable and responsible framework for the legalization of sports wagering that will, collectively, serve the best interests of all Missourians.”
Minor differences in the Missouri petitions
All eight petitions would legalize in-person and online sports betting in the state and set the sports betting revenue tax at 10%. Missouri sports teams and casinos would be eligible to hold the sports betting licenses.
Each casino and sports team in Missouri could open in-person sportsbooks and an online sportsbook. Proposed legislation allocated 39 mobile licenses tied to the teams and casinos.
The difference in the ballot proposals is the number of licenses available directly to mobile sports betting operators, ranging from one to four.
Failed Missouri sports betting efforts
The past two years of legislative efforts started promising with the backing of the coalition. However, each year, a House bill died in the Senate at the hands of Hoskins.
Hoskins has received multiple donations from VLT companies, which want the slot machine-like devices legalized in the state. Other legislators do not want VLTs included in a sports betting proposal, but Hoskins has pledged to “be an obstructionist until I get my way.”
“We don’t think Denny is serious,” DeWitt told LSR in July. “The definition of insanity, this situation is in the dictionary. The door for negotiation is always open. But when you insist on doing the business of Illinois gray-machine companies, it makes it tough.”
2022 petition failed
A sports betting petition was filed for the 2022 election cycle. That proposal never garnered enough support to be on the November 2022 ballot.
Success for the 2024 proposal is anything but a safe bet. A February Saint Louis University/YouGov poll found 35% of Missourians agree that betting on collegiate and professional sports should be legal.
If voters approve sports betting in 2024, the proposals set a launch date of no later than Dec. 31, 2025.
Coalition behind the sports betting push
The Missouri Pro Sports Coalition is made up of six organizations:
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Kansas City Current
- Kansas City Royals
- St. Louis Blues
- St. Louis Cardinals
- St. Louis SC