KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the past two years in Missouri, legalizing sports betting has felt close. We’re talking “first down and inches” close.

But Missouri’s professional sports teams suggest it’s quite the opposite, more of a “4th and 15 deep in your own territory” sort of situation.

A coalition of professional sports teams has now filed paperwork with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office trying to get a ballot question in for 2024. If it passes, sports betting could be legalized by 2025.

The St. Louis Cardinals, the St. Louis Blues, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Kansas City Royals, and the Kansas City Current are all a part of the group funding the push for legalization.

Robert Linnehan covers sports betting regulations across the country of XLMedia. He mentions that the last state to put sports betting on the ballot was California, where it failed.

But the strategy could be more successful in Missouri.

Last year, Missouri voters approved Amendment 3 to legalize recreational marijuana after the state legislature failed to pass the issue. And in 2020, Missouri residents voted to expand Medicaid through a petition initiative.

In the case of sports betting, the regulation of video lottery terminals, or VLTs, have been hitched to proposed legislation and cited as a factor why sports betting is still illegal.

“They get shot out of a cannon at the start of each session, and they look like they’re making a lot of progress,” Linnehan said. “And then the issue of VLTs come up and everything gets bogged down.”

“Obviously the sports teams believe they’re two separate issues. Many lawmakers believe they’re two separate issues. But several other key lawmakers in the state believe they should all be legalized,” Linnehan added.

Another round of sports betting legislation could come around in the next session, but a St. Louis Cardinals representative, speaking on behalf of the pro-sports coalition, said: “We’re not optimistic that kind of dynamic within the Missouri Senate will change.”

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office must approve an initiative summary of the petition before the coalition can start gathering the roughly 180,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot by a May deadline.

President of the St. Louis Cardinals Bill Dewitt III said that he is framing the issue to potential voters – not necessarily as just legalizing sports betting, but creating the ability to capture tax revenue off activity that people would either do illegally or in a different state.

“You know, we just keep hitting that wall in the Senate in Missouri where it’s really one senator – Denny Hoskins – who would rather expand slot machines throughout the truck stops in Missouri as his primary issue and wants to attach to our issue, because it’s a winning one, despite his issue that we’re agnostic about and we’re reaching this same conclusion every year,” Dewitt said.

FOX4 reached out to Hoskins multiples times on Wednesday for comment on the ballot question strategy but did not receive a response.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a gambling problem, help is available.
Find resources from the Kansas Behavioral Health Services, Kansas Gambling Help, or call the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network at 1-800-522-4700.