Missouri Legislative Dead End Leaves Sports Betting's Future With Voters

May 29, 2024
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Since the 2024 Missouri legislature has adjourned without an elusive agreement between lawmakers on legalizing sports betting, a ballot initiative is the only route left this year to bypass the legislative stalemate.
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Since the 2024 Missouri legislature has adjourned without an elusive agreement between lawmakers on legalizing sports betting, a ballot initiative is the only route left this year to bypass the legislative stalemate.

In a seven-page filing with the Missouri Ethics Commission, backers of the ballot initiative on sports wagering raised more than $2.52m in the latest reporting period, bringing the total amount raised by the Winning for Missouri Education campaign committee to more than $6.5m.

According to the committee's "15 Days After Petition Deadline" report dated May 20, DraftKings donated an additional $500,000, while FanDuel affiliate Betfair Interactive US donated $2.25m.

Winning for Missouri Education spent $2.42m with Fieldworks in Washington, D.C., on signature gathering, and $127,400 on government relations with Jefferson City-based Husch Blackwell Strategies, the campaign reported.

The campaign seeking to get the issue of sports betting on the November 5 ballot kicked into a higher gear in January when the signature campaign was launched. Winning for Missouri was created last summer after sports-betting legislation failed in the state legislature after reaching an impasse in the state's Senate for the second year in a row.

The committee, formed by a coalition of Missouri professional sports teams, submitted more than 340,000 signatures to the secretary of state’s office earlier this month. The campaign needs 170,000 valid signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

“The St. Louis Cardinals are proud to support this initiative, which will boost Missouri’s professional sports teams, our fans, and Missouri classrooms,” Bill DeWitt III, president of the St. Louis Cardinals, said in a statement after submitting the group's signatures.

Missouri is one of only 12 states without legalized sports betting in the six years following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the federal ban on wagering on sports.

On Tuesday (May 28), a spokesman with the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office told Vixio GamblingCompliance that officials are currently processing the sports-betting initiative, along with three other proposed ballot measures, and will send them to the 116-election districts across the state for verification.

The election districts have until July 30 to complete the process and return the initiatives to the Secretary of State, which initiates a two-week deadline to certify whether the initiative qualifies for the ballot in November.

If approved by voters, the proposed measure would add sports betting to the list of lawful gambling activities approved under the Missouri Constitution and enable each of the state’s 13 licensed casinos and six major professional sports franchises to be eligible for a license. Two additional standalone online sports wagering licenses would also be authorized.

Each casino and team could operate a retail and online sportsbook, with sports-betting revenue taxed at 10 percent.

Lawmakers in Missouri have spent the last few years trying to legalize sports betting only to come up short each time due to one Republican state senator being able to block any measure unless language to also legalize video lottery terminal (VLTs) is added to the measure.

Last year, a sports-betting bill passed the House of Representatives by a 118-35 vote but, despite bipartisan support, Senator Denny Hoskins was able to filibuster the bill and prevent it from being brought up for a vote on the Senate floor.

In 2022, an earlier bill also passed the House by a 115-33 vote, only to be tabled in the Senate due to opposition from Hoskins. Hoskins, who has served in the Missouri Senate since 2017, is barred from running for re-election again this year due to term limits.

At the end of this year’s legislative session, there were four bills in the Senate and four bills in the House proposing to legalize sports betting or VLTs that ultimately went nowhere.

Representative Crystal Quade, a Democrat and the Missouri House Minority Leader, introduced House Bill 2835 with about a month to go in the session. The bill to authorize sports wagering and VLTs received a public hearing on April 30, but not a vote in the House Special Committee on Innovation and Technology.

Quade told the committee that she did not expect any votes on her proposal but introduced it believing it was a discussion worth having as the two issues have been tied up for several reasons over the years.

Quade expressed support for the initiative process, but added that “if the legislature can handle something we should be proactive when our citizens are asking us to do something, and sports wagering is definitely one of those conversations”.

As highlighted by Vixio's May U.S. Sports Betting Outlook report, a November ballot measure to legalize sports betting in Missouri would be the first referendum on sports wagering since 2022's doomed initiatives in California. It may also provide insight into how public opinion on sports betting has evolved since a series of successful state referendums in 2021.

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