St. Louis Cardinals leads effort

Missouri: Pro sports teams coalition pushing to place legal sports betting on 2024 ballot

St. Louis Cardinals
Reading time 2:02 min

A coalition of Missouri professional sports teams is pushing to legalize sports betting in the state, aiming to put the issues to voters on the 2024 ballot. After missing out on millions of dollars in betting revenues over the past several years, the teams decided they were done waiting for the Missouri Legislature to act and instead have taken the first step toward an initiative petition drive that would circumvent lawmakers.

The St. Louis Cardinals baseball team is at the forefront of the effort, which also includes the Kansas City Chiefs football team, the Kansas City Royals baseball team, the Kansas City Current and St. Louis City soccer teams, and the St. Louis Blues hockey team.

News agency AP cited Mike Whittle, the Cardinals’ senior vice president and general counsel, on behalf of the coalition, who said that gathering petition signatures and running an advertising campaign for a ballot measure can cost millions of dollars, a price the teams are committed to collectively help cover. 

Whittle added: “Legalized sports betting would provide our fans a good, new, exciting way to enjoy sports and root for our teams.”

Petitions for the legalization of sports betting in Missouri filed 

Several versions of an initiative petition were filed with Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft's office on Friday, which is required to approve an initiative summary before supporters can start gathering the roughly 180,000 signatures required to qualify for the ballot by a May deadline.

The constitutional amendment would allow each of Missouri's pro sports teams and casinos to offer sports betting onsite and through online platforms that could function anywhere in the state. Some of the different versions would allow up to four online sports betting companies to receive approval to operate directly from the state.

The professional sports teams have been in conversations about the Missouri ballot initiative with the Sports Betting Alliance, which consists of BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, and Fanatics Sportsbook, Nathan Click, a spokesperson for the alliance, told AP.

The proposed initiative would enable Missouri to impose a 10% tax on adjusted gross sports betting revenue, after the payout of winnings and promotional bets to customers.

Previous proposals stalled due to disagreements

The Missouri House voted 118-35 in favor of sports betting legislation earlier this year, but it never received a Senate vote. Similar proposals have stalled in the state due to a disagreement over whether to combine sports betting with the regulation of slot-machine-style games that have begun opening in convenience stores. 

Earlier this year, a similar legislative proposal to the one backed by teams had been estimated to generate around $30 million annually when fully implemented. The proposed initiative would allot $5 million to a compulsive gamblers prevention fund, with the rest going to K-12 schools and higher education institutions.

In recent times, sports betting in the US has expanded rapidly and is now legal in all but one of Missouri's neighboring states. While Kentucky became the 35th state with active sports betting last week, Maine and Vermont have also legalized it but are still working to set up their betting systems.

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