Is Missouri sports betting on track toward legalization in 2024? We know better than to paint sports gambling passage as a formality in holdout states. But it does seem like The Show-Me State is making real progress on the matter.
Pro sports franchises in the region appear to be the impetus for recent progress. The St. Louis Cardinals (MLB), St. Louis Blues (NHL) and St. Louis City soccer club (MLS) are among the organizations who have spearheaded a proposal that would legalize sports betting in Missouri. Executives from the Cardinals, in particular, have been instrumental in steering the conversation and speaking on behalf of the state’s sports teams. Led by Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III, this gaggle of franchises is attempting something truly unique: sending sports betting legislation directly to the voters rather than waiting on the Missouri House of Representatives and Senate to get the job done.
What does this process look like? What are the details of this proposal? Will it be successful? What roadblocks still stand in the way? We’ll try to answer all of these questions here.
Details of Latest Missouri Sports Betting Proposal
Kurt Erickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on the process and status of the latest attempt to legalize Missouri sports betting:
“A pitch by Missouri’s professional sports teams to legalize sports betting inched forward Tuesday after Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft signed off on final ballot language for the campaign. The next play for organizers is to choose one of eight versions to put before voters and then begin collecting the necessary 170,000 signatures across the state in order to place a question on the ballot. Bill DeWitt III, Cardinals president, said Tuesday that the next step is to meet with the mobile gambling app industry to discuss which version to go forward with and then map out a strategy for collecting signatures.
“The coalition filed eight proposed ballot questions, each with slight variations on a framework to impose a 10 percent tax on wagers, which could generate an estimated $29 million for education. The plan also calls for creating a $5 million problem gambling fund.
The proposal would allow each of Missouri’s professional sports teams and the state’s 13 casinos to offer sports betting on-site and through online platforms that could be used anywhere in the state. Some versions would allow up to four online sports betting companies to operate directly from the state.”
Collecting the required signatures isn’t expected to be an issue for any of these measures. Yet, multiple polls have also shown that Missourians are generally against legal sports betting in some form. It isn’t clear whether opening the market to online sportsbooks in the United States will increase or diminish the support.
Roadblocks Await in the Push for Missouri Sports Gambling
Two primary obstacles stand in the way of the latest push for Missouri sports betting. First and foremost, is the issue of Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs). Notorious Missouri Senator Denny Hoskins has derailed multiple sports betting initiatives by insisting they be legalized as part of any bill. Though this particular proposal technically bypasses his involvement, filibustering can still take place.
More than anything, however, Missouri sports teams need voter support to legalize gambling both on-site and online. And it’s not entirely certain they will have it.
As Erickson wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “A Remington Research Group survey on behalf of the Missouri Scout political newsletter last week of 711 likely voters found 54 percent in opposition to legalizing sports betting, compared with 26 percent in favor. Twenty percent said they were not sure. The margin of error is 3.8 percent.”
These findings are not necessarily a death knell for Missouri sports betting. For starters, a 711-person sample isn’t necessarily representative of the entire state. On top of that, this negative sentiment could simply be a response to the legislative process. Because the House and Senate have been unable to collectively pass a bill, some voters will be conditioned to think sports betting is inherently unnecessary or taxing.
Anyone who falls under that umbrella can potentially be swayed with the right messaging. Some will like that so much of the Missouri sports betting proceeds go to education. Others will appreciate the money being allocated to a problem gambling fund. Many might not understand how VLTs have doomed previous sports betting legislation. And communicating that fact could open their eyes to the benefits of a regulated market.
Is There a Timeline for a Missouri Sports Betting Decision?
While no official clock is on the Missouri sports betting push, the state’s pro sports teams clearly want their measure to appear on the 2024 general election ballot. This means they will need to complete the process relatively soon.
Those elections will take place in November 2024. And the state will likely want all ballot measures finalized by the end of their winter legislature meetings. These take place at the start of January and typically run through the end of May. Traditionally, no measures will be considered after they aren’t certified by 6 p.m. local time on the first Friday following the second Monday in May. (Yes, we know that’s a mouthful.)
Technically, the latest Missouri sports betting initiative may operate on a different timeline. After all, it’s not running through the House and Senate. Chancers are, though, it will need to be finalized within that same window. And that, in turn, suggests we’ll know whether a Missouri sports betting bill will crack the 2024 electoral ballot in just a few months’ time.
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