Missouri Moves Closer to Legalizing Sports Betting with Approval of Ballot Language

An initiative to legalize sports betting in Missouri took a step forward this week after the formal approval of language that could appear on the ballot next year. Missouri Secretary of State John Ashcroft approved eight versions of the sports betting proposal on Tuesday, allowing supporters to begin gathering signatures necessary to get it on the ballot.

The push for sports betting is being led by a coalition of local sports teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Blues, Sporting St. Louis, and the Kansas City Current. These teams will need to gather more than 170,000 signatures from state residents to place a measure on the ballot.

If approved by voters, the measure would be added to the Missouri Constitution and the Missouri Gaming Commission would establish regulations to govern sportsbook operations. Sportsbook revenues would be taxed at a rate of 10% under all versions of the proposed language.

However, a recent poll found that 54% of likely voters opposed legalized sports betting, compared to 26% who support it and another 20% who were unsure. Despite this opposition, organizers estimate that establishing a sports betting program in Missouri would incur a one-time cost of $660,000 and ongoing annual costs of at least $5.2 million.

The tax revenues from sports betting would be dedicated to education spending after covering the Gaming Commission’s expenses and required contributions to a Compulsive Gambling Prevention Fund. If approved, sports betting would be available at the 13 casinos in Missouri, as well as at professional sports arenas and online through mobile sportsbooks.

The push for a public vote comes after supporters failed to pass a new sports betting law through the Missouri legislature twice in the past two years. State Senator Denny Hoskins was blamed for the stalemate this year, as he was on a similar measure in 2022. The legislature reconvenes in January, and organizers of the ballot measure say they would drop their push if lawmakers act, although they are not optimistic that will happen.