Campaign to legalize sports betting in Missouri gets help from mascots to haul voter signatures

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s professional sports teams on Thursday turned in more than 340,000 voter signatures to put a ballot proposal to legalize sports betting before voters this November.

The campaign had help from Cardinals’ mascot Fredbird, Royals’ Sluggerrr and St. Louis Blues’ mascot Louie. The oversized bird, lion and blue bear waved enthusiastically as they hauled boxes filled with voter signatures to the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office in Jefferson City.

Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft now must validate the voter signatures before the proposal officially makes it on the ballot. The campaign needs roughly 180,000 signatures to qualify.

A total of 38 states and the District of Columbia now allow some form sports betting, including 30 states and the nation’s capital that allow online wagering.

The Missouri initiative is an attempt to sidestep the Senate, where bills to allow sports betting have repeatedly stalled. Missouri is one of just a dozen states where sports wagering remains illegal more than five years after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for states to adopt it.

Teams in the coalition include the St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Blues, Kansas City Chiefs, the Kansas City Royals, and the Kansas City Current and St. Louis City soccer teams.

The proposed constitutional amendment would allow each of Missouri’s 13 casinos and six professional sports teams to offer onsite and mobile sports betting. Teams would control onsite betting and advertising within 400 yards (366 meters) of their stadiums and arenas. The initiative also would allow two mobile sports betting operators to be licensed directly by the Missouri Gaming Commission.

Under the initiative, at least $5 million annually in licensing fees and taxes would go toward problem gambling programs, with remaining tax revenues going toward elementary, secondary and higher education. If approved by voters, state regulators would have to launch sports betting no later than Dec. 1, 2025.

Summer Ballentine, The Associated Press

Photo: 366 meters