Is the New Missouri Sports Betting Bill Already in Jeopardy of Failing?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jan 18, 2024 07:00 PM
Is the New Missouri Sports Betting Bill Already in Jeopardy of Failing?

A new Missouri sports betting bill is officially on the table as 2024 legislature meetings get underway. But is it already destined to fail? 

Some people think so.

Pessimism is permeating the latest attempt to legalize sports betting in Missouri for a multitude of reasons. Up until now, the primary source of skepticism has remained the unique avenue down which this proposal is traveling. 

Previously, The Show Me State’s sports betting bills followed typical legislative protocols. These initiatives sought to legalize Missouri sports betting through a constitutional amendment. This requires a baseline approval inside the Missouri House of Representatives and Missouri Senate. From there, if the measure gets approved, it would appear on a general election ballot. At that time, state voters would decide whether it gets signed into law and ultimately implemented.

However, over the years, no Missouri sports betting initiative has ever made it onto a general election ballot. And this year, with a general election set for November 2024, it didn’t look like anything would change. So, in response, the state’s pro sports organizations are trying to take matters into their own hands. 

Rather than seek a constitutional amendment, this faction of franchises wants to legalize sports by racking up a required number of signatures from state voters. It’s a bold move. And a unique move, too. Most states have needed constitutional amendments to approve sports gambling. The ones that didn’t almost never have online sportsbooks in the United States operating inside the market. Missouri’s sports teams are hoping their proposal can rank among the most prominent exceptions. But their efforts may have already hit a snag.

Latest Missouri Sports Betting Bill Fails to Adequately Outline Tax Collection Protocol

The latest bill to legalize sports gambling in Missouri is currently being spearheaded by the following teams: St. Louis Cardinals baseball team (MLB), Kansas City Chiefs football team (NFL), the Kansas City Royals baseball team (MLB), Kansas City Current and St. Louis City soccer teams (MLS) and St. Louis Blues hockey team (NHL). Their proposal was approved for the signature part of the process a while ago. Most don’t think they’ll struggle to hit the required number of John Hancocks—somewhere between 170,000 and 180,000.

With that said, the bill is now subject to intense analysis from the governor’s office. And it seems that sports organizations may have failed to adequately outline or account for tax-revenue collection. Here’s the latest from Kurt Erickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

“An analysis of a proposed ballot question that would legalize sports betting in Missouri is raising questions about whether the effort by the state’s major league sports teams contains a major flaw. According to a fiscal review conducted by Gov. Mike Parson’s administration, the initiative petition fails to include a mechanism for allowing state agencies to collect or deposit taxes and fees generated by a legalized sports betting program.

“‘Without the identification of an agency to collect the tax, no tax can be collected. Due to wording in this IP, the Department of Revenue assumes this IP will not generate any revenue to the state,’ the analysis says.”

This is, of course, an issue that could cause the entire Missouri sports betting effort in 2024 to fall apart. Generating revenue is the entire reason states green light sports gambling. 

What Happens to The Show Me State’s Sports Gambling Bill Now?

For their part, Missouri’s sports teams disagree with these findings. Jack Cardetti, a spokesman for Winning for Missouri Education said the following in a statement:

Both the Missouri Constitution and our statutes give the Missouri Department of Revenue independent authority to collect all taxes imposed by law and deposit the funds, which is exactly what they will do after this November when Missourians legalize sports betting and provide tens of millions in annual, dedicated funding for Missouri education.”

Not surprisingly, the Governor’s office continues to push back what the sports-team coalition terms “flexible” language. And on top of that, the governor’s office has also said the “Missouri Gaming Commission would have no mechanism to collect money to finance a compulsive gambling prevention fund” as part of this bill.

These concerns prompt a fundamental question: What does this analysis mean for the Missouri sports betting bill?

Immediately, it actually doesn’t mean too much. The sponsors of the initiative still believe they’ll receive the required number of signatures. In fact, they have basically stated that the legalization of Missouri sports betting is guaranteed by voter interest and current wagering tendencies. Officials affiliated with the measure have repeatedly cited the size of Missouri’s off-shore and out-of-state betting demographics as reasons why in-state gambling must be legalized. 

What Happens If This Missouri Sports Betting Initiative Fails? 

Despite the confidence of bill sponsors, many experts caution against optimism. Nothing is guaranteed during this process, in large part because it’s so unique. Intervention from outside forces can also still play a role.

So, what happens in the event the primary bill to legalize Missouri sports gambling does fail? Probably nothing. This is to say, sports betting in Missouri would not be legalized in 2024.

Many will point out that other sports gambling legislation is on the table inside the House of Representatives and Senate. And this is indeed true. However, as of late January 2024, their odds of passage do not look so great. 

Make no mistake, there is plenty of support for legal sports betting in the House and Senate. But Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) continue to inject uncertainty into the equation. Senator Denny Hoskins and others have historically insisted VLTs be part of any sports betting bill. This idea is still being met with intense opposition. And it’s what has derailed the efforts to legalize Missouri sports gambling over the past couple of years.

In fact, the deadlock over VLTs is the entire reason why Missouri sports teams are attempting to work around the constitutional amendment process. And their ability to do so may quite literally determine if and when the state ever offers legal sports wagering. Do they have the support necessary to make all of this happen? We’ll find out in no more than a couple of months.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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