Missouri's professional sports teams launch petition drive to put sports betting on November ballot
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's professional sports teams announced Friday that they have launched an initiative petition drive to put the legalization of sports betting on the November ballot.
The initiative is an attempt to sidestep the Missouri Senate, where bills to allow sports betting have repeatedly stalled. Missouri is one of just a dozen states where sports wagering remains illegal more than five years after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for states to adopt it.
Vermont became the latest state to join the tend, launching mobile sports betting on Thursday.
Although sports betting has expanded rapidly, the odds for additional state legislatures to embrace it appear iffy in 2024 because of political resistance and the sometimes competing financial interests of existing gambling operators.
The Missouri sports teams said they began circulating petitions this week and will gather signatures this weekend at a St. Louis Cardinals offseason event and a St. Louis Blues home game.
Other teams in the coalition include the Kansas City Chiefs, the Kansas City Royals, and the Kansas City Current and St. Louis City soccer teams. Supporters have until May to submit the roughly 180,000 signatures of registered voters needed to qualify for the ballot.
"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,” Bill DeWitt III, president of the St. Louis Cardinals, said in a statement.
The proposed constitutional amendment would allow each of Missouri's 13 casinos and six professional sports teams to offer onsite and mobile sports betting. Teams would control onsite betting and advertising within 400 yards (366 meters) of their stadiums and arenas. The initiative also would allow two mobile sports betting operators to be licensed directly by the Missouri Gaming Commission.
The sportsbook companies DraftKings and FanDuel each contributed $250,000 earlier this week to a newly created campaign committee backing the ballot initiative.
Under the initiative, at least $5 million annually in licensing fees and taxes would go toward problem gambling programs, with remaining tax revenues going toward elementary, secondary and higher education. If approved by voters, state regulators would have to launch sports betting no later than Dec. 1, 2025.
The Missouri Gaming Association, which represents casinos, declined to comment about the sports teams' initiative.
Although sports betting bills have previously passed the Missouri House, consensus has been elusive in the Senate. Republican state Sen. Denny Hoskins has insisted that sports wagering be paired with the regulation of legally questionable slot-machine-style video games that have popped up in convenience stores and truck stops. Casinos have opposed that, and the two sides have remained at odds.
"It should be all or nothing,” Hoskins told The Associated Press before this year's legislative session began.
Online sports wagering companies, casinos, professional sports teams and video gaming terminal interests have combined to hire about 80 lobbyists in Missouri.