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Missouri Organization Declares Early Success On Legal Sports Betting Petition

Written By Derek Helling on February 29, 2024
people signing petition

If you’re in a race against the clock, it’s logical to make the best use of every second you do have. Facing a deadline to get potential ballot initiatives filed in time for the November 2024 elections in Missouri, an organization supporting the legalization of sports betting has publicized an update.

According to the campaign, the petition has already surpassed 100,000 signatures. While that’s a little over half of what the petition needs to qualify a measure for the ballot, the effect of giving the update could be an acceleration of that collection.

Missouri sports betting legalization petition makes announcement

A press release from the “Winning for Missouri Education” organization touts that the petition drive has surpassed the 100,000 mark. While that organization itself is a non-profit, the entities behind the petition push are anything but.

Winning for Missouri Education is supported by six sports entertainment organizations that operate in Missouri. Those entities are the:

  • Kansas City Chiefs
  • Kansas City Current
  • Kansas City Royals
  • St. Louis Blues
  • St. Louis Cardinals
  • St. Louis City SC

Additionally, online gambling companies have chipped in. For example, DraftKings and FanDuel have each contributed $250,000 toward the effort. The coalition expects to spend millions of dollars gathering signatures for the petition.

Costs include the production of the signature forms, labor, and filing fees. The petition supports eight potential ballot measures that Missouri voters could weigh in on later this year during federal and state elections.

Eight measures, one goal

In November, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft approved the language of eight separate ballot measures that Winning for Missouri Education submitted. While the petition technically supports all eight, the organization must choose just one to put on the ballot should the petition drive produce enough qualifying signatures.

All eight measures have the same overarching goal. That is to change the Missouri constitution to make wagering on sporting events via licensed entities explicitly legal in the state. The eight measures have nuances between them in terms of regulatory matters attached to that activity.

Among the common threads between them, however, is a tax structure. All of them would impose a privilege fee equal to 10% of licensed sportsbooks’ revenue. That money would be earmarked for a problem gambling treatment fund and supporting public education in Missouri.

Winning has until May 5 to collect at least 180,000 signatures from registered voters in the state. Those will then undergo further review by Ashcroft’s office. If Ashcroft deems that there are enough valid signatures, the chosen measure will then go on the ballot for Missourians to decide upon in November.

From there, the measure needs a simple 50% plus one majority vote in its favor to technically become part of the state’s constitution. Other obstacles might complicate the actual implementation of a regulated system for sports betting in Missouri, however.

Will a successful ballot measure produce sports betting in Missouri quickly?

Missouri’s government doesn’t have the best track record of quickly implementing the results of ballot measures. For example, when Missouri voters enacted a constitutional amendment via the ballot to expand Medicaid in the state, Gov. Mike Parson publicly declared that the state would ignore the will of the voters and refuse to carry out that expansion.

A big part of the reason for Winning’s existence and the petition drive is that policymakers in Jefferson City have been unable to enact sports betting legalization on their own. Multiple bills to legalize sports betting in Missouri have surfaced and been voted down for the past six consecutive years.

Those failures have included some legislative theatrics, including Missouri Sen. Denny Hoskins filibustering his own bill to prevent passage. Already in 2024, there have been some more internal struggles in the Missouri Senate over gambling expansion.

While that in-fighting signals that the existing gambling expansion bills in Jefferson City will go the way of their predecessors in 2024, it could also point to a prolonged battle over the implementation of gambling expansion that Missouri voters could authorize this year.

At the same time, the influence of the sports entertainment companies may move things along more quickly in Jefferson City. One thing is for certain; releasing the update about the petition drive works to help that effort along.

Winning leads to more winning

What the press release from Winning cites as a “milestone” for its petition drive is a complete invention. For practical purposes, close does not count and the only threshold that matters is that 180,000 minimum. Thus, reaching 100,000 signatures has only one effect.

The update could generate press for the petition drive, making Missourians more aware of the effort. That could aid in the collection of the remaining signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot. In essence, the press release is essentially a commercial for the petition.

In that regard, it could help with reaching the ultimate goal. While the ratification of a new constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting in Missouri could only spur more debate in the state legislature, it would be a different debate than that which is happening now.

The question would no longer be how to legalize sports betting and what to include. The raucous would instead focus on what a legal system for that gambling should look like.

Photo by AP Photo/Ed Zurga
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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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