JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s professional sports teams announced Friday they have launched a petition drive initiative to put sports betting legislation on the November ballot.
The initiative is an attempt to bypass the Missouri Senate, where bills allowing sports betting have repeatedly stalled. Missouri is one of only a dozen states where sports betting remains illegal more than five years after the US Supreme Court cleared the way for states to adopt it.
Vermont became the latest state to join the trend, launching mobile sports betting on Thursday.
Although sports betting has expanded rapidly, the prospects for additional state legislatures adopting it in 2024 appear unclear due to political resistance and the sometimes competing financial interests of incumbent gambling operators.
Missouri sports teams said they began distributing petitions this week and will collect signatures this weekend at an offseason event at a St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Blues home game.
Other teams in the alliance include the Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City Royals, Kansas City Current and St. Louis City Football Club. Supporters have until May to submit the nearly 180,000 signatures from registered voters needed to qualify for the ballot.
“We are united in our goal of supporting the legalization of sports betting in Missouri in a reasonable, safe and responsible way that benefits our teams, our fans, our Missouri teachers and our fellow Missourians,” Bill DeWitt III, president of the St. Louis Cardinals, said in a statement.
The initiative will allow each of Missouri’s 13 casinos and six professional sports teams to offer on-site and mobile sports betting. It would also allow two mobile sports betting operators to obtain a direct license from the Missouri Gaming Commission.
Sports betting companies DraftKings and FanDuel each contributed $250,000 earlier this week to a newly created campaign committee to support the ballot initiative.
Under the initiative, at least $5 million annually in licensing fees and taxes would be allocated to problem gambling programs, with the remaining tax revenues going toward primary, secondary and higher education.
The Missouri Gaming Association, which represents casinos, declined to comment on the sports teams initiative.
Although sports betting bills have previously passed the Missouri House of Representatives, consensus has been elusive in the Senate. Republican state Sen. Denny Hoskins insisted that sports betting should be coupled with regulation of legally questionable slot machine-style video games that have sprung up in convenience stores and truck stops. The casinos opposed this, and the two sides remained at loggerheads.
“It has to be all or nothing,” Hoskins told The Associated Press before the start of this year’s legislative session.
Online sports betting companies, casinos, professional sports teams and video gaming terminal interests have combined to hire about 80 lobbyists in Missouri.