FanDuel and DraftKings are throwing their weight behind a potential Missouri sports betting ballot initiative.
With a legislative stalemate looking likely for a third straight year, the Winning for Missouri Education ballot initiative to legalize Missouri sports betting is moving ahead, filing its initial 15-day report last week. To kick off the effort, FanDuel and DraftKings donated $2 million in cash, according to the committee’s report. The companies also added $500,000 in in-kind contributions.
“On behalf of our coalition of Missouri professional sports teams, we are united in our goal of supporting the legalization of sports wagering in Missouri in a reasonable, safe and responsible way that is good for our teams, our fans, our Missouri teachers and our other citizens of Missouri,” St. Louis Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III said in a release.
“We would prefer to achieve this through the legislative process. However, while the sports wagering bills that we have supported during the past couple of years have overwhelmingly passed in the Missouri House and have also had the support of a majority of the Missouri Senate, those bills have been repeatedly blocked in the Missouri Senate and not allowed to proceed to a vote in the Missouri Senate.”
Teams lead sports betting effort in Missouri
Despite passing the House the past two years, sports betting legislation has run into a roadblock in the Senate in Senator Denny Hoskins. The same dead-end appears to be in place in the chamber this year, even as leadership tries to work through it in the Show-Me State.
“As we are not optimistic that this pattern will change during the upcoming legislative session, we are currently proceeding with an initiative petition campaign to put the issue of legalized sports wagering on the ballot for Missouri voters in 2024,” DeWitt said.
Recognizing the legislative dysfunction, six professional sports teams in the state united for the ballot initiative. To put the question on the November ballot, the coalition must gather more than 170,000 signatures by May 5. The signature collecting began last weekend at the St. Louis Cardinals Care Winter Warm-Up and St. Louis Blues games.
Missouri sports betting petition details
The petition circulating creates online and in-person sports betting licenses for the state’s 13 casinos and six sports teams. The Missouri Gaming Commission could also award two licenses directly to sportsbook operators.
Each casino and sports team could operate one online skin and one in-person sportsbook. The plan would set the tax on sports betting revenue at 10%, with at least $5 million going to the Compulsive Gaming Fund annually.
The Missouri Gaming Commission would need to launch sports betting before December 1, 2025, according to the petition.
DraftKings, FanDuel add to sports betting initiative
The sportsbook operators began their contributions with $250,000 in-kind donations earlier this month, according to the 15-day report. FanDuel followed this week with a $1.5 million monetary contribution, while DraftKings added $500,000. They were the only donations on the report.
An industry source told LSR in December there could be up to $20 million committed to the initiative.
As members of the Sports Betting Alliance, the two operators also contributed to the failed Prop 27 California sports betting proposal last year. Prop 27 brought nearly $150 million in spending from multiple sportsbooks, including fellow Sports Betting Alliance members BetMGM and Fanatics.
Missouri Senate dysfunction escalates
DeWitt told a House committee Tuesday that if the legislature passes sports betting, the coalition would pull the ballot initiative. DeWitt has been critical of Hoskins, the lawmaker most responsible for the issue’s Senate failings.
As Rep. Dan Houx’s bill got rolling in the House this week, increased infighting within the Senate Republican caucus emerged. Senate President Caleb Rowden stripped four Senators, including Hoskins, of committee leadership assignments in retaliation for following their Freedom Caucus agenda and holding up the legislative process.
“The Chaos Caucus has chosen to use the Missouri Senate as a place to try and salvage their languishing statewide campaigns and intentionally destroy the institution in an effort to claim that the game is rigged against them,” Rowden said during a news conference.
Hoskins hits back at opponent
This week, he tied Rowden’s actions to their Republican primary race for Secretary of State.
“It’s unfortunate that our President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden has decided to use his office and try and beat me in the statewide race for Secretary of State,” Hoskins told reporters in Jefferson City this week.
What’s behind senator’s stand?
Hoskins is the main reason sports betting died the past two years. While a sports betting bill sponsor himself, Hoskins goes against the proposal supported by the state’s sports teams and casinos, insisting upon including video lottery terminals.
The VLTs do not have support from most lawmakers in Missouri, and the state’s rules allow one legislator to derail legislation. Last year, that included a multi-hour filibuster that featured a lengthy reading of Ronald Reagan’s biography.
Before the session, Hoskins indicated he would not back down.