Sports Betting Initiative Nears Deadline With Over 300,000 Signatures

Written By Phil West on May 2, 2024
A picture of a man signing a piece of paper

The May 5 deadline for a Missouri sports betting referendum on November’s ballot is looming. However, the political action committee in charge of the signature-gathering process claims to have more than 300,000.

That’s well above the 180,000 signatures needed to get the initiative on the ballot. And, according to a recent poll, it stands a good chance of passing.

Winning for Missouri Education spokesman Jack Cardetti thanked Missourians in an interview with Missourinet,

“The tremendous support we’ve seen throughout the state is a testament to Missourians’ readiness to bring sports betting revenue home and support our local schools, students and teachers in the process. As the campaign approaches our goal of putting this on the November ballot, Missouri is a step closer to allowing Missouri adults to bet on sports, while generating tens of millions in annual funding for our classrooms.”

Sports betting unlikely to pass at Capitol this year

The current legislative efforts to legalize Missouri sports betting looks like they will fail again. Putting the issue into the voters’ hands through a ballot initiative seems the best way to get it done this year.

Though House Bill 2331, introduced by state Rep. Dan Houx, could see a floor vote before the session ends, it’s unlikely to pass the Senate before the General Assembly adjourns on May 17.

Sen. Denny Hoskins, a vocal opponent of past sports betting bills and the current initiative, introduced Senate Bill 824 this session. It included provisions to legalize video lottery terminals (VLTs), the slots-like machines found in gas stations and bars across the state. Missouri’s professional sports teams, and most lawmakers in the General Assembly, want a clean sports betting bill, without the VLT concessions.

Should HB 2331 pass, Missouri would join the majority of US states with some form of legal sports betting. A February St. Louis University poll conducted with YouGov found that 60% of Missourians favor sports betting, 25% oppose it and 14% are unsure.

The initiative has broad bipartisan support among the voters: 65% of Democrats support it, as do 58% of Republicans.

A slimmer majority of those polled, 54%, approved of legal VLTs. The state’s casinos strongly oppose them.

Hoskins points out problems he sees with initiative

Cardetti, speaking on a KCUR-FM radio program last week, said it’s critical for the state to add sports betting.

“Missouri is one of only about a dozen states that hasn’t legalized sports betting. And that means we lose out on millions of dollars that could be going to our classrooms, and millions of dollars of economic opportunity. So, if this ballot initiative passes, Missourians will be able to place sports bets in a responsible, regulated manner.”

But Hoskins told Missourinet that he maintains his resistance to those efforts.

“I’m not against putting that question on the ballot, but I’ve consistently said that the ballot language that they are using I don’t believe best serves the people of Missouri. Number 1, the tax rate is very low. The fees are very low. There’s not enough money in there for problem compulsive gambling, which is going to be caused by legalization of sports betting here in the state.”

The Missouri Secretary of State’s Office has until the final week of July to validate signatures.

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Phil West

Phil West is a longtime journalist based in Austin, Texas, whose bylines have appeared in The Daily Dot, Nautilus, Pro Soccer USA, Howler, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Chronicle. He has also written two books about soccer.

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