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BETTING

Missouri’s Pro Teams Push Sports Betting Ballot Initiative

Adam Wainwright of St Louis Cardinals Acknowledges Fans
Adam Wainwright #50 of the St. Louis Cardinals acknowledges fans during a standing ovation prior to his at-bat against the Cincinnati Reds. Joe Puetz/Getty Images/AFP

Six local professional sports teams recently submitted a petition to put Missouri online sports betting on November’s ballot. If successful, mobile sports betting could come to the Show Me State in 2025.

Show Me the Money!

There are few, if any, hotbeds of professional sports teams pining for the legalization of online sportsbooks more than those in Missouri. These six teams have all collectively filed a petition to get a referendum on mobile sports betting on the state ballot in November:

  • St. Louis Cardinals (MLB)
  • Kansas City Royals (MLB)
  • Kansas City Chiefs (NFL)
  • St. Louis Blues (NHL)
  • Kansas City Current (NWSL)
  • St. Louis City SC (MLS)

In order to do so, the teams need to collect approximately 180,000 signatures from registered Missouri voters by May 2024 to qualify for the ballot box in November. An advertising campaign is already underway that will likely cost the teams millions of dollars, and mobile sports betting titans FanDuel and DraftKings have committed $250,000 to that effort.

A coalition of online sports betting firms, casinos, stakeholders in video gaming terminals, and the professional sports franchises themselves have already engaged 80 lobbyists around the state to bring sports betting to the Missouri masses.

Bill DeWitt III, President of the St. Louis Cardinals, has spearheaded the effort and has been the most vocal proponent of bringing sports betting to the Show Me State. Professional sports franchises have a great deal to gain should sports betting become law, as they would be able to tap a new revenue stream from sponsorships via the online sportsbooks operating in the state.

“We are united in our goal of supporting the legalization of sports wagering in Missouri in a reasonable, safe, and responsible way that is good for our teams, our fans, our Missouri teachers, and our other citizens of Missouri,” said DeWitt III.

What’s the Problem?

Senator Denny Hoskins has been the primary obstacle in bringing sports betting to Missouri as he insists that any bill must be tied directly to legalizing, licensing, and taxing the gray market slot-machine-style games called video lottery terminals (VLTs).

The casino operators in the state are behind sports betting but vehemently opposed to the licensing of VLTs, as they believe they will proliferate throughout the state and cannibalize their business, as it will be easier to pull a slot-style machine at a truck stop or barroom than make a trip to the nearest casino.

Senator Hoskins has been adamant in his support for the full legalization of VLTs in the state and has leveraged his power in the Senate, demanding a quid pro quo that demands the licensing of the gray machines in return for his support of online sports betting.

Hoskins wants to combine the legalization of VLTs and online sports betting into one bill that would make both legal under state law. “It should be all or nothing,” said Hoskins.

But so far, Hoskins has not received enough support to make his demand a reality, which is why he has continued to obstruct the mobile sports betting effort. Thus, the issues have remained at a standstill for several years but the professional sports teams in Missouri are now taking action to break that stalemate.

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