November 23, 2023
Missouri Secretary of State John Ashcroft signed off on a series of proposed sports betting bills this week, marking a crucial step in the journey to a regulated Missouri sports betting market.
The proposals are backed by a coalition of the state’s famous professional sports teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Blues, Sporting St. Louis, and Kansas City Current.
The proposals aim to bypass the Missouri State Senate, where sports betting bills have previously stalled, and instead take the issue straight to voters.
Organizers are now tasked with gathering over 170,000 signatures to place a measure on the ballot, aiming for voter approval in the upcoming elections.
If successful, this move could amend the Missouri Constitution, allowing the Commission to regulate online betting and Missouri retail sportsbooks.
Fiscal Implications and Regulations
The proposed sports betting framework entails limiting betting to individuals over 21 years old, with a 10% tax on sportsbook revenues.
While initial estimates predict one-time costs of $660K and annual costs of at least $5.2 million for establishing a sports betting program, revenue generation remains uncertain.
Organizers have projected state tax revenues ranging from $0 to $28.9 million annually, with the proceeds dedicated to education spending after covering the Gaming Commission’s expenses. Some funds will also be earmarked for a Problem Gambling Prevention Fund.
The proposal would enable sports betting at the 13 Missouri casinos, as well as professional sports arenas, and through online mobile sportsbooks.
Action Taken After Legislative Hurdles
Despite the House of Representatives’ overwhelming support for a new sports betting law earlier this year, the initiative faced a roadblock in the Senate, leading to a stalemate.
This impasse, largely attributed to one state Senator, Denny Hoskins, reflects the complexities in Missouri’s legislative process regarding sports betting.
Hoskins has expressed support for sports betting, but is advocating for a legal framework for slots-like “skill gaming” machines.
With the legislature reconvening in January, the fate of sports betting in Missouri remains in flux. That is why this coalition of lawmakers and sports teams is pushing for a direct petition to have a referendum.
Bill DeWitt III, St. Louis Cardinals president, is one of the most vocal backers of the proposals. He says he would prefer the legislative route, saving a costly and risky voting campaign. But if a vote is required, then he will support that.
“I would be thrilled if we could get legislative action, because then we wouldn’t have to do it,” he said, speaking on Tuesday. “I’m hopeful, but I’m also being realistic.”
Next Steps and Potential Challenges
Moving forward, the coalition led by professional sports teams will decide which of the eight proposed ballot versions to pursue before initiating a signature collection strategy. This decision process involves consultations with gambling operators and other stakeholders.
However, a recent poll indicates potential resistance among Missouri voters, with a majority reportedly opposing the legalization of sports betting.
Bypassing the state legislature is therefore no guarantee of a sports betting bill passing. Recently, a planned casino resort in Virginia’s state capital Richmond was rejected by voters for a second time after lawmakers recommended a referendum.
That casino’s backers, Kentucky-based horse race betting operator Churchill Downs and local Virginia consortium Urban One, pulled out all the stops for the campaign, including putting on a free concert with funk and soul legends The Isley Brothers.
However, the casino idea was ultimately rejected for a decisive second time.
On the other hand, these sports betting proposals in Missouri will have financial and promotional backing from the popular local sports teams, which could have a big influence on the vote. Fans may look forward to baseball betting on 11-time World Series winners the St. Louis Cardinals, and/or betting on football via last season’s Super Bowl LVII-winning Kansas City Chiefs.