Home » Missouri sports betting advocates turn to ballots amid legislative stall

Missouri sports betting advocates turn to ballots amid legislative stall

JEFFERSON CITY – After years of legislative attempts to legalize sports betting in Missouri advocates have turned to the ballot with the hope of more success.

With the deadline to submit petitions just a few days away, KRCG 13 spoke with the people gathering the signatures and with the Missouri Gaming Commission, to get an assessment of the likelihood this will be the year to bet on sports wagering.

What was once something that did not reach beyond Las Vegas or Atlantic City, today there are 38 states that have legalized sports betting. Missouri is not one of them. But the fire to get sports betting onto the November ballot in Missouri burns hot. Once steadfastly against the idea, Missouri’s professional sports teams and not lawmakers are driving the bus.

Lawmakers have tried to pass a bill for the past six years. Last year, the Missouri House of Representatives finally gave a thumbs up, but the measure died in the Senate, where it routinely gets blocked by lawmakers focused on protecting video gambling machines.

Jan Zimmerman is the chairman of the Missouri Gaming Commission. She says the commitment of the professional sports teams to legal sports gambling has been a major turning point in the debate.

“And I know our sports teams, I’m in the Kansas City area and certainly those in the St. Louis area are all advocating for that. So, I think there is the desire, I would never speak for all Missourians but certainly it appears there is a significant number that is supporting that.”

Zimmerman says there is still opposition from lawmakers worried about the public’s mental health.

“People are concerned about addictive behavior; you know I have had a lot of conversations with people who are concerned that sports betting will allow that addictive behavior to proliferate.”

Zimmerman adds, “I think that there are valid concerns that this may create opportunities for people to gamble that previously weren’t there.”

Missouri’s situation is unusual in that the two largest metropolitan areas sit on borders with neighboring states that allow sports wagering. People in Kansas City and St. Louis need to make only a short drive to place a legal bet.

As a result, gaming revenue that could be coming to Jefferson City goes to Topeka, Kansas, or Springfield, Illinois. The success of teams like the Cardinals, Chiefs, and even Missouri Tigers has made that spotlight shine even brighter.

Jack Cardetti is a spokesperson for Winning for Missouri Education, the initiative petition campaign that needs to turn in at least 171,000 valid signatures by Sunday to get the question on the November ballot.

“We have collected now more than 320,000 signatures from all across the state. We’ll be turning those in later this week and we’re hoping to see this issue put on Missouri’s November ballot.”

Cardetti says sports gambling happens, whether it’s legal or not. The only people missing out are Missouri taxpayers.

“It’s great that Missourians are out there placing bets, but none of that money is going towards Missouri education or our classrooms. This will raise tens of millions of dollars each and every year in permanent dedicated funding for education and allow Missourians to participate in sports betting in a responsible way.”

“We’re one of the few states that has six professional sports franchises, but yet were one of only a dozen states that you can’t bet on sports,” Cardetti adds.

According to the Kansas City Beacon, between September 2022 and December 2023, people in Kansas alone wagered $2.8 billion dollars. The Sunflower State kept $12.2 million of that.

According to S&P Global, Americans last year wagered a record $119.84 billion on sports, which was a 27.5-percent increase from 2022.