Missouri Sports Betting Advocacy Gains Momentum Towards November Ballot

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The campaign lobbying for legalization of sports betting in Missouri is gaining significant traction as it traverses the “Show-Me State,” petition in hand. The aim is to spur the inclusion of a constitutional ballot referendum on the ballot in November. The enthusiastic reception thus far suggests the odds are increasingly in favor of Missouri voters weighing in on sports betting at the polls.

The advocacy effort, dubbed “Winning for Missouri Education,” announced recently that it has already amassed more than 300,000 signatures in favor of the sports betting initiative. The count surpasses the minimum requirement of 171,592 signatures needed to place an initiated constitutional amendment on the 2024 general election ballot.

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“As we inch closer to our goal of bringing this matter before the voters in November, we inch closer to letting Missouri adults legally place sports wagers, which could generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue for our schools each year,” said campaign spokesperson, Jack Cardetti.

The next milestone for the campaign is to officially submit the signatures to the Missouri Secretary of State for verification by May 5. The campaign is optimistic and expects to have gathered 325,000 signatures by the cutoff date.

Winning for Missouri Education was the brainchild of the MLB St. Louis Cardinals, established last year in collaboration with three other professional sports teams in the state — namely, the NFL Kansas City Chiefs, MLB Kansas City Royals, and NHL St. Louis Blues.

Currently, Missouri stands out as a central Midwestern outlier. As the state persists in banning sports gambling, it diverges from seven of its border states that have legalized sportsbooks. Only Oklahoma shares Missouri’s stance, maintaining a limited ban on sports betting along their mutual border.

Backing this campaign financially are DraftKings, FanDuel, and Betfair. Collectively, these major sportsbook operations have injected nearly $6 million into the project.

If the signatures meet the required threshold and are authenticated by State Secretary Jay Ashcroft’s office, the sports betting question could make it onto the November ballot. A support vote from the majority of voters could then see Missouri join the ranks of nearly 40 other states where regulated gambling on professional and college sports is lawful.

Interestingly, legalizing sports betting has been a hot topic among Missouri lawmakers for quite some time, and the chances of a bill passing looked favorable in early 2022. That was until state Sen. Denny Hoskins filibustered the passage. Though Hoskins failed to tie the legalization of video lottery terminals and no-chance skill games to sports betting, his resistance successfully blocked a sports betting bill from passing through the Missouri General Assembly.

“Across the country, everyone is getting in on the action we’ve been locked out of—because a handful of people insist on having slot machines in gas stations,” state Sen. Caleb Rowden lamented in February.

Sen. Hoskins has also voiced disapproval of the campaign to sidestep the legislature and legalize sports betting through a ballot initiative. He argues that allocating only $5 million for problem gambling is an insufficient counterbalance to the potential societal problems that could arise from sports gambling.

If the question of sports betting is approved and the Missouri Constitution subsequently amended, the state’s casinos will be eligible to offer both in-person and online sports betting. Likewise, the state’s six professional sports teams will be granted the opportunity to partner with third-party sports betting operators.

If approved, the referendum proposes taxing gross sports betting proceeds at 10%, primarily to fund state education programs—a focus reflected in the campaign’s name. Advocates of sports betting anticipate that nearly $29 million could be annually raised for the state through a flourishing online and retail sports betting market.