As the war for sports betting in Missouri nears its next battle, St. Louis Cardinals senior vice president Mike Whittle made an appearance on the World Series of Politics podcast to discuss that topic.
As a member of a coalition of professional sports teams in Missouri tasked with getting sports betting legalized after several failed attempts, Whittle’s comments on the matter carry significant weight.
During the podcast, Whittle discussed the future of sportsbooks in the Show Me State and the steps the coalition is taking to make sports wagering legal.
“We think that it is kind of inevitable that this gets done at some point, but we think it should get done sooner rather than later so that we all benefit here in the state of Missouri from this going forward.”
Professional sports teams have already begun process to bypass Hoskins
There seems to be a strong appetite for Missouri sports betting among legislators, pro sports teams and residents. Despite that, attempts in the last two sessions of the Missouri General Assembly to legalize it have been thwarted by one lawmaker. Senator Denny Hoskins has derailed sports betting legislation by tagging on amendments and filibustering. His efforts have succeeded, and Whittle has voiced his frustration.
Now, the coalition of pro teams intends to turn the tables on Hoskins if it proves necessary. The coalition has submitted several petitions that are slightly different in language, expecting one to be approved, Whittle said on the podcast.
“It terms of how it looks like for us in terms of process, we filed these petitions here I guess almost three weeks ago. We are expecting and hoping that it will get approved. It goes through a review process with the Missouri secretary of the state and we hope that will be completed by mid-November. We would start collecting signatures once it is approved. We would decide which one of the four that we would proceed with, and we would proceed to collect signatures on that one from that mid-November time period to until I think May 8 is the filing date for submission of signatures.”
Once a petition is approved, canvassing for signatures begins. The magical number they must reach to get sports betting on the ballot is 171,592. Those signatures must be gathered and submitted by May 5 (correct date).
There is faith that at least one of the four petitions will be approved because they hardly differ from the proposals that passed in the Missouri House last year. If anything, the additional fees for operators that Whittle referred to might make the approval even easier.
“What we are proposing is not much different than what was passed by the Missouri House. There are some structural things here and there, but I think for the most part, including the tax rate that is proposed, was the one that was passed by the Missouri House at 10%. And I think the fees might actually be a little bit higher here than what they were in that version. Roughly, it is about the same economically as what was passed in the Missouri House this last session.
“If I recall correctly, there was a fiscal note that they do with legislative research. I am not sure how they do their economic impact, but it came back with I think $30 million of revenue it would generate for the state of Missouri.”
If no bills make it through the legislative process and the coalition must go the initiative route, there is a strong level of faith that a referendum for legalizing sports betting will be on next year’s November ballot, Whittle said.
“We have a lot of faith in the Missouri citizens, and we have a lot of faith in our fans, which a ton of them are here from Missouri as well as the five teams in our coalition. There is a lot of support and a lot of things we hear on a day-to-day basis about what they are feeling about this issue. We feel like we need to do them a service to move this forward and not be in this weird spot where it is legal in every other state around us.”
Coalition will still pursue a gaming bill through the legislative process
The coalition would rather not go around the Missouri General Assembly to get a referendum on the ballot. The preferred method to pass a gaming bill would be using the legislative process. Whittle made that very clear during his conversation.
“Keep in mind, we still – and we have always said this – would prefer to achieve our goal through a legislative process. The Missouri legislative session starts in January and goes through May 16 or 15 or something in that time period. If we think it is something that can be achieved in the legislative session coming up, that is great. We would withdraw our petition.”
Still, the past dealings with the Missouri Senate have left this pro sports coalition without much trust. While they still hope for legalization through the legislative process, they are not going to simply believe in the process.
“We hope so. But honestly, we are not incredibly optimistic that anything will change, like I said. Even despite what we might do and lay out, we are not sure it will change anything either. We are hopeful, but we are not going to bury our head in the sand and hope. We have seen that movie too many times.”