Bringing sports betting ‘out of the shadows’; Cardinals leading effort to bring sports gambling to Missouri

Cardinals leading effort to bring sports gambling to Missouri
Cardinals leading effort to bring sports gambling to Missouri
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 10:26 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - After the Missouri Legislature consistently voted down sports gambling legalization, St. Louis Cardinals ownership and all the other Missouri-based sports teams, are financially backing an effort to bring the issue to the people.

“We don’t want to criminalize something that everybody is okay with for the most part,” said Bill DeWitt III, President of the St. Louis Cardinals.

DeWitt said sports betting is taking off in America as more people have grown to accept it. He believes it should be on the books in the Show Me State

It’s legal in 30 states, including Kansas, Illinois and Arkansas, which all border Missouri.

First Alert 4 went to a parking lot in Sauget, just across the Mississippi River, and found at least one person with Missouri plates betting on their phone. A clerk inside the gas station said, “You’d be surprised” how many people bet in the parking lot.

DeWitt wants to stop the river jumping, which takes tax dollars out of Missouri. So he’s helping spearhead an effort to put sports gambling on the ballot.

“Hopefully, you would be inclined to agree that having a taxed and regulated system is better than an untaxed and unregulated system with sports betting,” said DeWitt.

But in Jefferson City, the State Senate has continually stalled sports betting, unable to reach a compromise. Some lawmakers want to regulate sports gaming with gas station slot machines, known as gray machines, but others haven’t agreed.

Brendan Bussmann, a sports gaming lobbyist, said he’s been working on legalizing the practice in Missouri since 2018.

“Probably been involved in almost every state that has legalized sports betting to date,” said Bussmann.

Bussmann wants to bring sports gambling “out of the shadows,” or rather, the Metro East parking lots, where people go just to bet.

“You’ve run into a roadblock in Missouri, and this seems like almost the best opportunity to get this done in the most efficient way,” said Bussmann.

For Bussmann, it’s another way to enjoy the game.

“I want to be able to enjoy a game, I wanna buy a beer, and if I wanna place a small wager that’s within my budget and within my means, I should be able to do that,” said Bussmann.

And just how much has sports betting grown?

People have spent a total of $220 billion placing bets on sports, according to the American Gaming Association, since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a ban on most states in 2018.

“It’s grown. You see DraftKings and Fanduel advertisements everywhere,” said Mark Hanna.

Hanna runs Real Time Fantasy Sports, a Missouri-based business that focuses on daily and season-long fantasy sports games.

He wants to see sports betting legalized for several reasons but also wants his company to be able to make peer-to-peer bets, allowing for two people to bet on the same game against each other.

That currently is in none of the four initiative petitions filed last week.

“Which is fine; we’re just hoping we can be a part of that as well,” said Hanna.

And DeWitt said the Cardinals have plenty of revenue to gain from marketing opportunities with sports books. But DeWitt’s number one goal is keeping fans engaged.

“There are different bets within a game that can be fun or interesting, in addition to who’s gonna win or lose,” said DeWitt.

The effort does appear to have financial backing as well. All six Missouri pro sports teams, the Cardinals, St. Louis Blues, St. Louis City SC, Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City Royals and the Kansas City Current, are backing the petition drive.

DeWitt also said casinos in Missouri and sportsbooks like FanDuel and DraftKings will also aid the effort to get it on the November 2024 ballot.

DeWitt said his hope is that people can start signing petitions before the end of the year.