The Missouri Senate gets no pass from St. Louis Cardinals president Bill Dewitt III.
The Senate struck out again on passing a Missouri sports betting bill, making it yet another of more than 20 filed and unpassed bills over the past couple of years.
One reason for the bill’s failure is the ongoing battle between pure sports betting supporters and one senator’s push for legalizing video lottery terminals.
DeWitt’s team belonged to a coalition made up of six Missouri sports teams that had lobbied lawmakers during this year’s session. Now DeWitt has declared the Senate “not conducive to getting stuff done.” The coalition’s lobbyists saw that this was so, he said.
He went on to say:
“I still continue to believe that the legislative approach is the best way to do this. But if we just keep running into a wall every year, we would have to seriously consider an alternative approach.”
That approach would be a ballot initiative. It would allow people to vote on the issue, rather than leaving it to the legislature. “It’s very disappointing,” DeWitt said of the failure to legalize sports betting yet again.
Missouri sports teams make up sports betting coalition
The coalition originally had four pro sports teams as members. Now, besides the Cardinals, these teams make up the coalition:
- Kansas City Chiefs football team
- St. Louis Blues hockey team
- St. Louis City SC soccer team
- Kansas City Royals baseball team
- Kansas City Current women’s soccer team
DeWitt spoke of the increased engagement between fans and teams that might result from legal sports betting, an increase backed up by some studies. He’s also called it “a fun and exciting new way to enjoy sports and root for our teams.”
He stressed the tax benefits to the state, as well. Tax rates on sports betting proved a source for debate throughout the legislative session, as well as other issues.
Of course, big dollar benefits could be seen by the professional sports world. According to estimates derived from a study done by the American Gaming Association, the four major leagues (baseball, hockey, basketball, and football) could see $4.2 billion in annual revenue from sports betting.
Some, like Senator Bill White, however, expressed more concern about the human and financial tolls of legal sports betting on low-income Missourians who would lose money to gambling. According to yogo.net, White said, “legalization could benefit operators but not the people of Missouri.”
“We are going to have kids that are not having homes,” White elaborated. “We are going to have kids that aren’t having food because people can’t spend [money].”
Don’t talk about in-fighting club?
DeWitt talked about Senate infighting as another culprit in the failure to launch sports betting this session.
According to the St. Louis Business Journal, on one side is the main republican caucus, on the other conservative senators who make up a smaller caucus.
Added to the mix now is “a new committee of St. Louisans, some connected to Washington University, seeking to reshape the Senate amid the stalemate.”
Not taking the initiative… yet
In December, ballot proposals to legalize sports betting were filed on behalf of the teams. The state requires signatures from 8% of Missouri voters in six of the state’s eight congressional districts for such initiatives, but as the Post Dispatch reported, signatures had not been sought.
So the ballot initiatives are “dead for the year.” A future ballot initiative remains an option, DeWitt told the Business Journal.
Missouri’s not keeping up with sports betting neighbors
Kansas will now have sports betting before Missouri does, since that state’s governor Laura Kelly signed off on it on May 13. “All of our neighboring states have it,” DeWitt said.
With Kansas joining the ranks, some 31 states currently have legal sports betting, including Louisiana, New Jersey, and New York. Another five have approved it.
Over the years since 2018 when the US Supreme Court turned the regulation of sports betting over to the states, the Missouri rundown looks like this:
- 2018: 5 unpassed bills
- 2019: 4 unpassed bills
- 2020: 7 unpassed bills
In January of 2021, three bills were pre-filed and ultimately did not pass. This year, the coalition was “really hoping for a legislative breakthrough,” DeWitt commented to the Business Journal.
“Now that that hasn’t happened, we just need to all get together as a sports team coalition to decide next steps.”