Sports betting proposals have had trouble getting onto the ballot in Missouri in the past. A coalition of Missouri professional sports teams is not taking any chances this time around.
Sixteen different sports betting petitions have been filed with the Secretary of State’s Office in an effort to legalize retail and mobile sports wagering.
The coalition, which includes representatives of the Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Blues, St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis City Soccer Club, is attempting to take control of the process by getting a ballot measure before voters in November 2024.
The teams are frustrated that attempts to legalize sports betting in Missouri have failed numerous times at the Missouri statehouse.
What are the details of the 16 Missouri sports betting proposals?
The 16 petitions currently open to public comment are similar in content, with just a few differences.
Under all 16 proposals, the cost of retail Missouri sports betting licenses would be $250,000, with online betting licenses costing $500,000. The license fees would reimburse expenses for the Missouri Gaming Commission. Whatever is left over would go to the Compulsive Gaming Prevention Fund.
A proposed sports betting tax of 10% is the same across all 16 petitions. There would be licenses available for online sports betting companies, excursion gambling boats and sports districts. These new districts are areas that surround home arenas of qualifying franchises.
The tax dollars would go to the same place in all 16 petitions as well. Most of the money would go toward education. Then, the greater of 10% of the annual tax revenue or $5 million would go to the Compulsive Gaming Prevention Fund.
The sports that could be wagered on are also the same in all 16 petitions. Professional sports people could wager on include the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, MLS, WNBA and the National Women’s Soccer League. Betting on college sports would also allowed, but with the caveat that college sports prop bets are not allowed. Fantasy bets are also prohibited, as is all betting on high school or youth sports.
All petitions also have the same start date for sports wagering if passed: no later than Dec. 1, 2025.
Where these ballot initiatives differ are in the details. Some of them have no stated limit on how many mobile or retail licenses will be available. Others limit the number of mobile licenses available to anywhere from two to four mobile licenses after grandfathering in professional sports teams and excursion gambling boats.
Path for these petitions to lead into legal sports wagering in Missouri
If one of these 16 petitions, which were filed between Oct. 3-4, is to become the golden ticket, it will have to make its way through a long process.
First, these 16 petitions will have to make their way through public comment, which is ongoing. Once comments have been made, the next step is waiting for the Secretary of State’s Office to approve some or all the petitions.
Once that step is cleared, the canvassing for signatures will begin. The total number of signatures needed to get a ballot initiative for sports wagering in Missouri is 171,592, according to Ballotpedia. That number is representative of 8% of voters from the most recent vote for governor in six of the eight congressional districts of Missouri. There is no clear indication which of these 16 proposals could make it to the point of canvassing for signatures.
If a proposal garners enough signatures, it would then be put on the November 2024 ballot to be voted on by all Missouri voters. If voters pass one of the proposals, sports betting would launch no later than Dec. 1, 2025.
One senator still stands in the way of legal sports betting
When the General Assembly reconvenes in January, Missouri sports betting will undoubtingly be a hot topic. Legalizing sports betting has been at the forefront during previous legislative sessions, and the next one should be no different. So far, no sports betting bills have been pre-filed ahead of the session, which begins on Jan. 3.
The most frequent opponent of sports betting is actually not opposed to it. State Sen. Denny Hoskins has said he backs legal sports betting as long as video lottery terminals (VLTs) are legalized at the same time.
VLTs are slots-like gaming machines found in gas stations and bars across the state. Their legality is in question. Hoskins wants them legalized and taxed. He estimates the state would make hundreds of millions more every year from taxing VLTs as opposed to sports betting. Unfortunately for Hoskins, most lawmakers do not support legalizing VLTs. At the very least, most lawmakers want VLTs and sports betting to be separate issues. Hoskins knows that his only chance at legalizing VLTs is to tie them to sports betting.
Instead of finding a compromise or solution, Hoskins has used the filibuster to block sports betting legislation. He has gone as far as reading Ronald Reagan’s biography out loud during a legislative session to delay a vote on sports betting. The state senator is expected to do the same in the upcoming legislative session.
Coalition of pro sports teams will bypass General Assembly if necessary
Enter the coalition of professional Missouri sports teams. It formed a few years ago and began its efforts by lobbying lawmakers to get a sports betting bill on the ballot. With that failing, the coalition has turned its attention to getting its own referendum on the ballot.
The coalition is working alongside attorney Alixandra Cossette, who filed nine ballot initiatives for sports betting with the General Assembly in 2021. Cossette has now filed 16 proposals with the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office in an effort to get one proposal before voters in November 2024.
While it would be easier and more cost-efficient to let lawmakers work toward legalizing sports betting on their own, that path has not borne fruit. The Cardinals said in a statement that legalizing sports betting through a legislative process is what they would prefer. But with a lack of movement on that end, the coalition is hedging its bets, so to speak.
“Although we would prefer to achieve this goal through the legislative process and will continue to work with stakeholders to advance a responsible sports wagering law to that end, the coalition has begun work to put the issue on the ballot before Missouri voters in 2024 by filing initiative petition language with the Secretary of State’s Office. We believe that this initiative petition language provides for a reasonable and responsible framework for the legalization of sports wagering that will, collectively, serve the best interests of all Missourians.”
That professional sports team coalition is backing the 16 new sports betting initiative petitions as well as four other petitions filed in early September. The 16 new petitions are currently in the public comment period, while the earlier four petitions have not been approved for circulation among state voters at the time of writing.