Missouri Sports-Betting Supporters To Pick Preferred Ballot Model

December 4, 2023
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Supporters of a potential ballot initiative in Missouri are now tasked with determining which of eight potential sports-betting models they intend to put forward to voters.
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Supporters of a potential ballot initiative in Missouri are now tasked with determining which of eight potential sports betting models they intend to put forward to voters.

Late last month, Missouri’s secretary of state approved eight potential ballot initiatives all put forward by a coalition of Missouri professional sports teams that includes Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals and the National Hockey League’s St. Louis Blues.

If they reach the ballot and are approved by voters, each of the proposed initiatives would legalize retail and mobile sports betting in the state no later than December 2025.

Before getting to the November 2024 ballot, however, the coalition of sports-betting proponents must decide which of the initiatives it wishes to start collecting signatures for.

To qualify for the ballot, signatures must be collected from 8 percent of legal voters in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts, which for the 2022 election would have represented more than 171,000 signatures.

All of the eight initiatives have some common elements between them.

Each of the proposals would legalize retail betting at licensed casinos and at professional sports venues. Each casino and professional sports team would also receive at least one mobile betting skin.

Operators would pay $250,000 for a retail license and $500,000 for a mobile license, as well as a 10 percent tax on adjusted gross revenues. Further, the eight proposals would allow for a deduction for promotional play of up to 25 percent of total gross receipts, plus deductions for federal excise tax payments and allowances for operators to carry over losses from previous months.

However, one of the key differences is whether to allow untethered mobile sports wagering licenses that would not require a partnership with a Missouri sports team or casino.

Six of the eight plans include opportunities for at least two mobile licenses to be issued that would be untethered to any land-based operators.

Two of the plans would create two untethered licenses, while two other proposals would create three untethered licenses and the final two would allow up to four untethered licenses.

In addition, half of the eight ballot proposals contain a more pared-down package, leaving more discretion for regulators, while the other half contain more codified statutory provisions in areas such as official data requirements and ownership disclosure requirements for mobile operators.

The potential need for a ballot initiative to approve mobile sports betting has arisen after several failed attempts to enact bills by the state’s legislature.

Legislation has typically met its downfall in the state's Senate after inevitably becoming intertwined with Missouri’s other major gaming issue, namely the proliferation and potential regulation of grey machines in the state.

Senator Denny Hoskins, a proponent of regulating gaming machines outside casinos, has served as the biggest roadblock to legislation in the Senate due to Senate rules that allow a single legislator to filibuster legislation.

That has meant bills to authorize sports wagering that have passed easily in the state's House of Representatives have all stalled so far in the Senate.

Missouri sports team representatives have maintained that they prefer a legislative solution to a ballot initiative, and have not given up hope for that outcome in 2024.

“We decided to support a ballot initiative as an alternative if we can’t get something through the legislature,” Bill DeWitt III, president of the St. Louis Cardinals, told Vixio GamblingCompliance in September. “We would be happy with a legislative fix and put aside the ballots.”

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