Pro sports teams submit petition signatures to legalize sports gambling in Missouri • Missouri Independent

A coalition of professional sports franchises in Missouri submitted more than 340,000 signatures on a petition to the Secretary of State’s Office Thursday morning to try to put sports gambling legislation on the November ballot.

The teams, which created a committee called Winning for Education in Missouri, turned to the initiative petition process years after sports gambling bills were repealed in the General Assembly. Signatures were obtained from more than 8% of registered voters in at least six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts.

The proposed measure would add sports betting to the state constitution if approved by voters. It includes licensing teams, casinos and online websites, such as FanDuel and DraftKings.

Mike Whittle, vice president and general counsel of the St. Louis Cardinals, was one of several representatives who attended a news conference Thursday outside the Secretary of State’s office.

“We got to a point where we wanted to pursue this path and bring this issue to the citizens of Missouri for a vote later this year,” Whittle said.

“As far as sports teams go, I mean some of us are from different areas of the state. “We are not necessarily on the same page on every issue, but on this issue we are on the same page and we really appreciate the partnership and support,” he added.

Representatives said the gambling tax would generate “tens of millions” annually to help fund education in Missouri. The financial memo shows it could generate nearly $30 million.

Nearly $5 million of the sports betting tax money will go to a fund to help compulsive gamblers, and the rest will go to public schools and higher education programs.

Some Missouri state senators, including Republican Sen. Denny Hoskins of Warsenburg, have repeatedly killed sports betting bills in the Legislature, claiming they don’t address the issue of compulsive gambling to a high enough degree.

Missouri’s neighboring states – Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Kansas – have legalized sports betting. Oklahoma didn’t do that.

Thirty-eight other states across the country have legalized some form of sports betting.

Adam Sachs, senior vice president and chief external affairs officer for the Kansas City Royals, said he has friends who “drive around and have barbecues on the Kansas side and bet on sports legally.”

Whittle echoed Sachs’s sentiments.

“Our fans understand that. They saw this revenue going outside the state of Missouri, and they asked the question: ‘Why can’t we keep it in Missouri?’” he said.

Major League Baseball prohibits teams from setting up sportsbooks at their stadiums, but setting them up in nearby locations, such as in and around Ballpark Village, is an option the Cardinals have explored, Whittle said.

For the royal family, Sachs said offering that vote to the people puts it in the hands of the masses.

“It’s just another way to get our fans involved. There are corporate sponsorship opportunities as well that come from this, but it’s all about the fans,” he said.

If enough signatures are verified by the Secretary of State, they will be eligible for a public vote in the November election.

The General Assembly is currently debating a measure that would require any potential constitutional amendment to receive a majority vote not only at the state level, the current threshold, but also approval from five of the state’s eight congressional districts. If approved, the measure could make it to the August primary and change the approval process for November.

This story originally appeared on columbia missouri. It can be republished in print or online.

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