Missouri Sports Betting Ballot Language Overcomes Major Obstacle

Posted on: November 22, 2023, 10:18h.

Last updated on: November 22, 2023, 10:18h.

An effort to legalize sports betting in Missouri advanced this week with the formal approval of language that could appear on the ballot next year.

St. Louis Cardinals Missouri sports betting

Bill DeWitt III, the president of the Cardinals and a lead organizer of the effort, said organizers would meet with mobile gaming industry members to decide which version of the ballot measure to pursue and then begin collecting signatures.

“We’re going to do that here in the next week or two,” DeWitt said Tuesday, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

The teams appear to have their work cut out for them to convince voters to back a gambling expansion, according to a poll last week conducted by Remington Research Group on behalf of the Missouri Scout, a subscription newsletter covering state politics.  As cited by the Post Dispatch, the poll found 54% of likely voters opposed legalized sports betting, compared to 26% who support it and another 20% who were unsure.

10% Tax, Up To $29M Expected For State

Betting would be limited to individuals over the age of 21, and sportsbook revenues would be taxed at a rate of 10% under all versions of the proposed language.

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. Sportsbook licenses are expected to generate between $10.75 million and $12.75 million, depending on which version of the proposal supporters ultimately pursue.

Because sportsbook operators will be able to claim various tax deductions, organizers said they could not know how much ongoing revenue the state will claim. The proposal estimates state tax revenues ranging from $0 to $28.9 million annually and says local government estimates are unknown.

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 a ballot measure is approved, sports betting would be available at the 13 casinos in Missouri as well as at professional sports arenas and online through mobile sportsbooks.

Legislative Stall

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.

The state House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a new sports betting law on a 118-35 vote earlier this year, but the measure stalled in the Senate and the chamber adjourned without voting.

State Sen. Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg) was blamed for the stalemate this year, as he was on a similar measure in 2022. Hoskins says he does not oppose sports betting in itself, but he is holding out for the state to pass a legal framework for slots-like “skill gaming” machines that have attracted controversy.

The legislature reconvenes in January, and organizers of the ballot measure say they would drop their push if lawmakers act. But they are not optimist that will happen.

“I would be thrilled if we could get legislative action because then we wouldn’t have to do it,” DeWitt said, according to the Post-Dispatch. “I’m hopeful, but I’m also being realistic.”

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