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Missouri Sports Teams File Four Sports Betting Ballot Initiatives

Written By Derek Helling on September 11, 2023
busch stadium during a weather delay

Like Kansas City Royals or St. Louis Cardinals players anxiously waiting out a rain delay during a game, the owners of those teams and other similar enterprises in Missouri have grown tired.

To the extent that they can, they have taken matters into their own hands in terms of the legalization of sports betting in Missouri.

Even if they are successful, their efforts may prove futile in terms of preventing members of the Missouri legislature from using sports wagering as a device to push their agendas. That may especially prove the case if the 2024 elections in Missouri go a certain way.

6 Missouri teams file four ballot proposals for sports betting legalization

Last week, a coalition of six professional sports entertainment businesses in Missouri filed four proposals to amend the state’s constitution via a referendum. Those organizations are the:

  1. Kansas City Chiefs
  2. Kansas City Current
  3. Kansas City Royals
  4. St. Louis Blues
  5. St. Louis Cardinals
  6. St. Louis SC

All four proposals aim to change the state’s constitution to make betting on sports legal in Missouri. The move is not unexpected. After legislation in Jefferson City failed yet again this year, team officials like Cardinals majority owner Bill DeWitt III essentially said this would be their next move.

It’s unlikely all four measures will qualify for the 2024 statewide ballot. However, filing four distinct measures improves the chances that the coalition will get at least one of them on the ballot.

To qualify, accompanying petitions must secure signatures from hundreds of thousands of voters from all over the state. Furthermore, the ballot language must receive approval from the Missouri secretary of state.

That is a big reason why 2024 may be the coalition’s best shot.

2024 election may bring mixed results for Missouri gambling

The repeated failures to legalize sports betting via the legislature in Missouri are not complicated. It has come down to a debate over whether Missouri will also concurrently regulate video lottery terminals (VLTs) in businesses like convenience stores.

A small number of senators in Missouri have insisted on tying the two issues together. The rest of the legislature has resisted that push. Among the most vocal of the senators pushing for VLT regulation is Sen. Denny Hoskins.

Hoskins has been adamant that he won’t support any sports betting legalization measure that doesn’t include VLT regulation. He’s even filibustered his bills to block sports betting legislation. Most notably for the future of a ballot measure toward that end, he is a candidate for secretary of state in 2024 as an article by The Missouri Times noted.

Should Hoskins become Secretary of State, he could resist future ballot measures that would legalize sports betting. That could make getting such initiatives onto the ballot beyond 2024 more difficult. However, even if Hoskins loses or the ballot measure passes in 2024, though, there are still potential obstacles ahead.

Legalization and implementation are not the same thing

Missourians know well that just because they vote to amend their state constitution doesn’t necessarily mean the state government will abide by their wishes.

A prime example of this is a 2020 ballot measure that passed in Missouri to expand Medicaid. According to an NPR article, the next year, Gov. Mike Parsons informed the state’s voters that the money didn’t exist to support the expansion. However, according to another NPR post, the state had no problem finding space in the budget for tax cuts for the most wealthy residents.

In 2022, the state legislature considered a bill that would have made Medicaid expansion contingent on legislative approval each year. If not for the intervention of the Missouri Supreme Court, the 2020 Medicaid ballot measure would have been a futile effort.

In much the same way, legislation will be necessary to implement sports betting regulations in Missouri. Even if lawmakers amend the constitution to legalize it via the ballot. In enacting such enabling legislation, there could be similar obstacles. DeWitt spoke to that difficulty.

“We’ll continue to push in the legislature, but in the last few years, we keep running into a brick wall despite having really good numbers in terms of those who support the issue,” DeWitt said in a KMBC News article.

It might not put legal sports betting apps on Missourians’ phones but a ballot measure is the strongest leverage that Missouri teams have to affect that change. The wheels are now in motion toward that end.

Photo by AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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