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Missouri Sports Betting Update: Pro Teams Push For Ballot Initiative

Bill Speros for Bookies.com

Bill Speros  | 5 mins

Missouri Sports Betting Update: Pro Teams Push For Ballot Initiative

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The push to legalize Missouri sports betting failed during the state legislative session that ended on Friday. It was the third year in a row the push to bring sports betting to the "Show-Me State" came up short of its goal.

The next opportunity for Missourians, who are surrounded by states with legal sports betting, to finally have access to the best Missouri betting apps could come via the 2024 ballot box. 

The Missouri House made a last-ditch effort to pass sports betting this session. The House attached an amendment to include sports betting to a separate bill sponsored by the lone senator who has long been blocking the passage of a Missouri sports betting bill. It wasn't enough. Infighting in the Senate between Republican leaders, one of whom may run for state office, doomed the effort.

The amended bill, SB 92, passed the House vote of 83-65. Senate Bill 92 adjusted the tax rate of HB 556 to 15% (up from 10%) and included a $325,000 annual license renewal fee.

The move was designed to facilitate action in the Senate, which is a positive sign for backers of Rep. Dan Houx's House Bill 556 and its companion HB 581, both of which have been languishing since being approved by the House by a vote of 118-35 on March 22. 

Missouri would have had up to 39 sportsbooks (3 for each of the state's 13 casinos) under the bill. The state's six professional teams would be granted one license each. Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III was recently vocal about the need to pass a Missouri sports betting bill.

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Missouri Surrounded By Legal Betting States

Like the other states that have launched sports betting in 2023, geography has been a driving factor in the push to bring betting to Missouri. Both Ohio and Massachusetts began accepting retail and online betting this year. They are surrounded by states with legal wagering and passed betting in part to stop the flow to potential tax dollars out of state. 

Hopes for legal sports betting in Missouri were buoyed when Kansas began the practice in September 2022. Data from GeoComply shows nearly 14 million attempts to place bets in Kansas have been made from Missouri, including more than 250,000 on Super Bowl Sunday in February. 

"Missourians are surrounded by legal sports betting," said John Pappas, Senior VP of Government and Public Affairs with GeoComply. "They want the option to bet legally, so they try to log in to these sites. They try and unfortunately, we have to stop them."

Five of the eight states that border Missouri current have live and active betting. They are Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Two more, Nebraska and Kentucky, have legalized the practice but do not have betting yet underway. Only Oklahoma is not close to adding betting any time soon. 

The Kansas City Chiefs are the defending Super Bowl champions. Nearly $25 million was bet on Super Bowl 57 on game day in Kansas. Overall, books in Kansas paid out roughly $39.2 million in winnings off the game, including NFL futures and prop bets. The Chiefs beat the Eagles 38-35. KC covered the spread as 2-point underdogs and paid +110 on the money line. The total easily hit the over on 49.5 points. 

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MLB Teams Consider Push For Betting Initiative 

Because of that, both operators and legislators see the potential for a strong market. Both the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals said they are considering backing a ballot initiative for the 2024 election to legalize sports betting. 

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same result," St. Louis Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III told the Missourinet. "Which seems to be what’s been happening in (Jefferson City) on this issue."

He added that fans in the St. Louis area are crossing the Mississippi River to place their bets in neighboring Illinois or simply placing their bets with offshore, illegal sites. And he believes legalized betting in Missouri could help his team’s overall revenue stream.

The Royals, too, are on board with a potential referendum. 

The Royals are "aligned with the coalition of professionals ports franchises across the state and share the same frustration when it comes to the lack of progress in Jefferson City. We are open to considering a joint initiative petition campaign at some point soon," said a statement from the team’s chief legal counsel. 

Several sportsbooks have licensing deals with Major League Baseball and most teams where betting is legal. Teams and players share in the revenue generated. Teams, however, do not get a cut of any of the money wagered. 

Additional revenue from betting also comes in the form of increased engagement time during games. That is a key issue given that the average time of games have fallen 28 minutes between this year and last with the addition of the pitch clock and other mechanisms to speed up play. 

Any coordinated ballot effort would likely get a major financial boost from betting outlets. A failed push to get sports betting on the 2022 ballot in Florida came up far short of the numbers of signatures needed. Combined, FanDuel and DraftKings sunk more than $36 million into the ill-fated effort. 

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Missouri Sports Betting's Two-Man Roadblock

The fact is Missouri sports betting would have been legal long ago if not for Hoskins standing in the way. Denny Hoskins filibusted because he wants to regulate Video Lottery Terminals - video slot machines which are currently illegal and proliferate in bars, restaurants, and smaller retail sites like convenience stores and gas stations.

Hoskins’ mission to regulate those machines has been a longstanding issue and was the reason he blocked last year’s sports betting bill. Other legislators want the machines addressed in separate legislation. One thing is certain, the machines are a drain on legal casino revenues.

This year, Sen. Bill Eigel, a Weldon Spring Republican who is considering a run for governor in 2024, also detrailed the process with several procedural moves. 

About the Author

Bill Speros for Bookies.com
Bill Speros
Bill Speros is an award-winning journalist and editor whose career includes stops at USA Today Sports Network / Golfweek, Cox Media, ESPN, Orlando Sentinel and Denver Post.