The Secretary of State’s office recently signed off on four proposed referendums that would let voters choose whether to legalize Missouri sports betting. However, don’t expect to see petitions for any of those measures hit the streets soon.
While the four, which were submitted on Sept. 8, were approved for circulation last week, sports betting proponents filed seven additional measures with Secretary of State John Ashcraft on Oct. 4. The state is currently reviewing those proposed constitutional amendments that could be placed on the November 2024 general election ballot.
Mike Whittle, the vice president and general counsel for the St. Louis Cardinals, told BetMissouri.com Tuesday that the newer filings included additional language and tweaks sought by the Sports Betting Alliance, which includes BetMGM, DraftKings, Fanatics and FanDuel. Whittle said the hope is the state might approve those for circulation by as soon as the end of November.
What’s in the New Proposals?
The verbiage in the newer proposals is similar to that from the initial filings, based on a cursory review by BetMissouri.com. They limit each Missouri casino or professional sports team to one retail and online betting partner. One difference between them is the number of standalone online licenses that would be available. There are initiatives allowing for two, three or four such licenses, and one offers no untethered licenses.
If approved, sports betting would launch no later than Dec. 1, 2025. Licenses would cost $250,000 for brick-and-mortar sportsbooks and $500,000 for Missouri sports betting apps operators. The state would raise money through a 10% tax on sportsbooks’ adjusted gaming revenues.
A new clause in the new proposals was a cap on fines assessed to licensed operators. The Missouri Gaming Commission would not be able to issue fines to licensed operators that “exceed $50,000 per violation or $100,000 resulting from violation of the same occurrence of events.” Within the past year, regulators in Indiana and Ohio have issued six-figure fines to operators licensed in those states for a variety of infractions, such as mailing promotional materials to underage bettors, holding promotional events at a college or allowing people who illegally obtained debit card information to make deposits.
While proponents would prefer a legislative solution to authorizing sports betting in Missouri, that has been a difficult task due to senators filibustering legislation. The most notable senator who has done that is state Sen. Denny Hoskins. He has stated his support for sports betting but also wants to legalize video gaming terminals in the state – a measure opposed by Missouri’s casinos.
Referendum Vs. Legislative Process
Bypassing the legislature and going to the voters would take longer, but proponents could control the initiative's language. That means they would be able to set up the tax structure and dictate other terms, such as the caps on fines, without the legislature being able to amend those.
If the newer proposals are approved, proponents would have until early May – six months before the election – to submit their petitions to election officials for review. At a minimum, Missouri sports betting supporters would need at least 171,592 signatures from registered voters. State law requires a petition calling for a constitutional amendment to include at least 8% of the registered voters in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts.
Many Missouri residents are champing at the bit to have licensed sportsbooks in the state. The recent launch in Kentucky means that seven of Missouri’s eight neighboring states have legalized some type of sports betting. However, a survey taken earlier this year by Saint Louis University revealed only 35% supported legalizing sports betting.
Still, there are others besides the sports betting operators and professional sports teams that want to see it happen. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas has filed a resolution before the City Council that includes the city’s 2024 legislative priorities. Among them is legalizing sports betting so tax revenues can be “captured at the state and local level to support important local priorities.”
Stay close to BetMissouri.com for developments, as well as for the best Missouri sports betting promo codes.