2024 is off to a hot start for sports betting advocates in Missouri as local lawmakers and professional sports franchises alike have both proposed plans to bring online wagering to the Show-Me State sometime this year.
New Sports Betting Bills Filed in Missouri
Two sports betting bills were filed in the state last week as Senators Tony Luetkemeyer and Denny Hoskins renewed their sports betting efforts that failed in 2023.
Both Hoskins’ bill (SB824) and Luetkemeyer’s bill (SB852) would legalize online sports betting as well as retail sports betting at the state’s riverboat casinos. Under the proposed bills, each riverboat casino would be eligible to partner with up to three online operators, and each Missouri sports team could partner with one.
In both bills, each licensed casino will be subject to a $100,000 licensing fee, while sportsbook operators will incur a $150,000 licensing fee.
In Luetkemeyer’s bill, sportsbook operators’ gross gaming revenue would be subject to a 12% tax rate. During their first year of operation, operators can deduct 100% of their promotional spending from their gross gaming revenue. However, this will be scaled down to zero percent by the fifth year of operation.
New Year, Same Conflict
Hoskins’ bill — also known as the Missouri Returning Heroes Education Act — proposes a 10% tax rate on all revenue generated from sports betting activities and the legalization of video lottery terminals (VLTs). While the latter point about VLTs may seem inconsequential, this addition has single-handedly been a point of contention in all Missouri sports betting hopes for several years.
Hoskins’ bill would allow VLTs – taxed at a 36% rate – “in fraternal organizations, veterans’ organizations, and truck stops, as such terms are defined in the act, and in business entities licensed to sell liquor by the drink”.
The inclusion of VLTs has been long debated in Missouri sports betting discussions. Hoskins has successfully filibustered and stalled any previous sports betting legislation that does not include VLTs, and there are no signs that that will change this year. Legalization by way of legislative proposals seems to be a dead end.
Cardinals & Other Missouri Teams Take Charge
With such low chances of legislative success, Missouri’s sports teams have taken another approach to getting sports betting legalized in Missouri.
A coalition with representatives from the St. Louis Blues, Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis City SC, and the Kansas City Current submitted eight initiative petitions to the Missouri Secretary of State. The petitions propose the legalization of online and retail sports betting in the state, and they were recently approved to move into the circulation phase.
Last weekend, petitioners began collecting signatures from eligible Missouri voters at the St. Louis Cardinals’ Care Winter Warm-Up and the St. Louis Blues’ home hockey games. If they receive enough signatures, they can get the question over sports betting placed on the ballot in November.
A minimum of 8% of registered voters’ signatures in six of eight Missouri districts must be collected to make it on the ballot (171,592 signatures). The deadline is May 8, 2024.
“We are united in our goal of supporting the legalization of sports wagering in Missouri in a reasonable, safe and responsible way that is good for our teams, our fans, our Missouri teachers and our other citizens of Missouri,” Bill DeWitt, President of the St. Louis Cardinals, said in a statement. DeWitt has been the main advocate on behalf of all sports teams. FanDuel and DraftKings have also donated to the petition.
“We would prefer to achieve this through the legislative process,” said DeWitt. However, the coalition is “not optimistic that this pattern will change during the upcoming legislative session.”
It’s also worth noting that Hoskins is a leading candidate for Missouri’s Secretary of State job this year. While it’s not exactly certain how that affects sports betting chances, it will likely ensure that it’s legalized on his terms.