When Missouri sports betting legislation died in the Senate in May 2023 with one senator blocking its path, St. Louis Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III called the failure “insanity.” 

Now, a little more than one year later, it appears likely that state residents will head to the polls in November 2024 to have their say on the legality of sports betting in Missouri.

The Winning for Missouri Education campaign submitted more than 340,000 signatures to Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office. If at least 170,000 are validated, the issue will qualify for the ballot.

Missouri sports betting polling history

Though the number of signatures that Winning for Missouri Education has collected may indicate significant interest in legal sports betting from Missourians, voter approval on the issue has not always been high.

In the last two years, Missourians have been polled several times on the issue of legal sports betting. Registered voters supported legalization in the three most recent polls after two earlier published polls did not provide much optimism for the proponents of legal betting. 

St. Louis University confirmed to LSR that SLU/YouGov plans to conduct another poll on sports betting in August.

Below is a look at the five published polls:

Poll 1:

The first poll, conducted between Feb. 8 and 14, 2023, by St. Louis University/YouGov, surveyed 433 likely voters. The voters were presented with the following statement: “Betting on collegiate and professional sports should be legal in Missouri.”

Poll 2:

The second poll, cited by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was conducted in November 2023 by Remington Research Group. The poll surveyed 711 likely voters and found 26% of respondents in favor of legalizing sports betting, 54% opposed, and 20% unsure. The margin of error was 3.8%.

Poll 3:

The third poll, which Fox 4/Emerson College conducted in January 2024, surveyed 1,830 registered voters and found much different results. 

Poll 4:

The fourth poll, which SLU/YouGov conducted from Feb. 14 to 26, 2024, surveyed 900 likely voters on various political issues. Sixty percent of those polled said they would support legalizing sports betting, 25% opposed it, and 14% were unsure. 

Poll 5:

The fifth poll, conducted from June 17-19, 2024, surveyed 1,000 registered voters via landline and touched on several political issues. 38% of respondents were in favor of legalizing sports betting while 35% said they would vote against it and 26% were unsure.

Factors that could impact the Missouri ballot initiative

Voter turnout

During the 2020 presidential election, 63.1% of voting-age Missourians voted, compared to 59.6% in the 2016 and 2012 elections. 

Voter turnout is higher in all states during presidential election years, so the number of voters weighing in on legal sports betting would likely be higher in 2024 than if the issue appeared on the ballot in a non-election year. 

Presidential election

Missouri has leaned red in six consecutive presidential elections, including years when the Democrats won by a large margin nationwide.

This occurred in 2008, when Republican candidate John McCain won 49.36% of the vote in Missouri, while Barack Obama won 49.23% in Missouri and 52.9% of the popular vote nationwide. 

Missouri’s last two presidential votes were decisive Republican victories for Republican Donald Trump. In 2016, 56.38% of the popular vote went to Trump (37.87% Democrat), and in 2020, Trump held 56.8% of the vote (41.41% Democrat). Trump is the presumptive Republican candidate again in 2024.

In one of the recent sports betting polls of likely voters (Poll 4), 58% of Republicans said sports betting should be legal, 28% were opposed, and 14% were not sure. A higher percentage of Democratic voters (65%) favored legal sports betting.

Senate race

The Missouri Senate race could also impact down-ballot issues in 2024. This would put the issue of sports betting in front of more people than in a non-election year.

Republican Josh Hawley is the incumbent after winning 51.4% of the vote in 2018. 

Democrat Claire McCaskill won the previous Senate race with 54.81% of the vote in 2012. McCaskill also won in 2006.

The Senate primary elections will take place on Aug. 6 in 2024. Marine veteran Lucas Kunce is the favorite to win the Democratic primary, although recent polls show Hawley as the likely victor in November.

History of ballot measures in Missouri

While not necessarily an indication of future ballot measure success, Missourians have largely supported ballot measures. In all, 63.36% of all statewide ballot measures were approved between 1985 and 2020 (83 approved, 48 defeated).

Two measures are already scheduled to appear on the August and November ballots in 2024. Four more measures, including sports betting, could also appear on the ballot.

Sports betting ballot initiatives in other states

Several other recent ballot initiatives related to sports betting or gambling have come up in other states. Below is a list of recent examples, sorted by year.

2024 (upcoming vote):

2022: 

2021:

2020:

2018:

In the future, more states may have to address the issue of legal sports betting through a statewide ballot initiative. Alabama and Georgia, for example, require a constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting.

Missouri sports betting roadblocks

Sports betting legislation in Missouri has met resistance primarily from one source: state Sen. Denny Hoskins. Hoskins’ insistence on legalizing video lottery terminals, or VLTs, as part of any legislation has led to multiple failed sports betting bills despite support from legislators, sports teams, and the public. Legislation passed in the House in each of the last three legislative sessions, only to be stifled by Hoskins in the Senate. 

“There are enough people who want to get sports betting done. It’s getting sort of ridiculous,” an industry source told LSR in July 2023.

Hoskins has participated in filibusters several times in his attempts to block legislation, including an eight-hour session in 2023 that included a reading of Ronald Reagan’s biography. 

While Hoskins’ term in the Senate ends in 2024, sources have told LSR in the past that VLT lobbyists could find another lawmaker to stand in the way.

For now, the 2024 ballot initiative appears to be Missouri’s best hope for legal sports betting.

Missouri sports betting ballot proposal details

If the ballot measure is certified by the secretary of state’s office and passed at the polls in November, the proposal would create an online and in-person sports betting market in Missouri. The state’s 13 casinos and six professional sports teams would get licenses, and the Missouri Gaming Commission could give two additional licenses to sports betting operators. 

The state would tax sports betting revenue at 10%.

Next steps

The secretary of state’s office is currently counting and verifying the signatures submitted by the Winning For Missouri Education campaign.

In Missouri, the number of signatures required to qualify for the ballot is 8% of legal voters in any six of the eight congressional districts. That means the smallest number of valid signatures required this year is 171,592.

Once local election authorities verify the signatures, they must be delivered back to the secretary of state’s office by 5 p.m. on the last Tuesday in July before the election. This year, that date is July 30.

The secretary of state’s office then has two weeks to verify the signatures, issue a certificate of sufficiency if it deems enough signatures valid, and announce whether sports betting will appear on the ballot.