Two weeks after making their first contributions to the group pushing for a constitutional amendment that would legalize Missouri sports betting, FanDuel and DraftKings doubled down on their commitment and then some.
“Winning for Missouri Education” submitted its initial 15-day report to the state’s Ethics Commission on Wednesday. That report showed FanDuel gave a $1.5 million monetary contribution on Monday, and DraftKings contributed $500,000. Those funds are on top of the in-kind contributions totaling $500,000 made by the two sports betting giants earlier this month.
Formed in the wake of state officials approving a petition to put the question of legalizing Missouri sports betting before voters on Nov. 5, the committee is led by the state’s major professional sports teams and works closely with online gaming operators. Signature gathering started less than two weeks ago in St. Louis.
Proponents will need to collect at least 171,592 signatures from Missouri registered voters to get it on the ballot. In addition, the signatures gathered must include at least 8% of the registered voters from six of the state’s eight congressional districts.
FanDuel and DraftKings belong to the Sports Betting Alliance, a national trade group that also includes Fanatics and BetMGM and supports legalization efforts nationwide. Those four and other sports betting operators gave $150 million to back an unsuccessful California online sports betting initiative in 2022.
The filing does not indicate how the $2 million will be spent, and it’s uncertain if Fanatics and BetMGM will also contribute to the Missouri campaign. A message to a “Winning for Missouri Education” spokesperson was not immediately returned Wednesday night.
Houx Files Another Sports Betting Bill
As sports betting operators and Missouri sports teams push forward with the initiative, lawmakers in the General Assembly are trying again to take care of the matter themselves.
State Rep. Dan Houx, R-Warrensburg, once again sponsors a bill, House Bill 2331, to allow Missouri sportsbook apps. The measure would allow Missouri to join 38 states that license sportsbooks, which offer odds on teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Blues and many more. The House Fiscal Review Committee chairman told the Special Committee on Public Policy that legalized wagering would bolster Missouri education funding by approximately $35 million each year.
The bill would tax operator revenues at 10% and allow them to carry over any net losses for 12 months. That’s the same tax rate as the proposed initiative, which also would let operators carry over losses. Under Houx’s proposal, the state’s 13 casinos would be able to host brick-and-mortar sportsbooks and partner with up to three online sports betting operators (they, in turn, could offer customers Missouri sports betting promos as incentive to sign up). The initiative would let the six companies operating casinos, plus major professional sports teams, each have an online and retail license. In addition, the initiative would license up to two standalone online sports betting operators.
Missouri House lawmakers have passed sports betting legislation three times in the past two years. Each time, though, the measure has been blocked in the Senate.
Tuesday’s committee meeting was just a hearing on the bill. No votes were taken as proponents and one opponent stated their cases to lawmakers. Cardinals team president Bill DeWitt and other representatives from the state’s pro teams and the SBA endorsed Houx’s bill. DeWitt referenced the petition campaign in his remarks.
“We would gladly suspend that effort if we were able to get legislative approval through this bill,” DeWitt told lawmakers.
“Winning for Missouri Education” has until May 5 to collect the signatures and present the petitions to elections officials for verification.
Senate Discord Hinders Bill’s Chances
Even if Houx’s bill makes it out of the House, chances are high that a sports betting still won’t pass in the Senate. That’s primarily due to a battle waging in that chamber between Republican factions.
On Tuesday, Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, announced he was stripping four members from the majority party of the committee chair positions and reassigning their Capitol parking spaces after they blocked approval of gubernatorial appointments. Those senators are part of the Freedom Caucus, which has been trying to pass a measure that would make it harder for ballot initiatives to pass.
On Tuesday, Rowden used another name to describe the senators and claimed those affected had ulterior motives behind their moves.
“The Chaos Caucus has chosen to use the Missouri Senate as a place to try and salvage their languishing statewide campaigns and intentionally destroy the institution in an effort to claim the game is rigged against them,” Rowden said.
One of those senators stripped was Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg. In the past, Hoskins has used the filibuster to block sports betting bills from receiving a vote. He took that action because his bill to legalize sports betting would also allow video gaming terminals across the state. That’s a provision Missouri casino operators strongly oppose.
The sports betting tiff isn’t necessarily at the heart of the current discord, but the filibusters on it waged at the end of last year’s session certainly helped sow the seeds for what’s happening now in Jefferson City. Besides that, Hoskins and Rowden are candidates for Missouri Secretary of State and are slated to face each other and three other candidates in an August primary.
“I cannot help but feel this action is an attempt to silence me for the policies I have supported and those I have opposed, both in the committee and on the Senate Floor,” Hoskins said. “I am proud of my record as an elected official and am severely disappointed to see what I believe is personal, vindictive retribution being handed down in the General Assembly’s upper chamber.”
BetMissouri.com will continue to provide news and analysis of what’s happening in the effort to legalize sports betting in the state.