St. Louis Cardinals Strongly Influenced New Missouri Sports Betting Bills

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The Cardinals' owners have strongly influenced the sports gambling bills. - Photo courtesy of Flickr / Missouri Division of Tourism
Photo courtesy of Flickr / Missouri Division of Tourism
The Cardinals' owners have strongly influenced the sports gambling bills.

By the time October arrives this year, it may be possible for baseball fans to bet on whether or not the Cardinals win the pennant, or even how many strikeouts Adam Wainwright will throw in a game.

A bill to legalize sports wagering is heading to the Missouri House floor for debate following a committee vote last week. Three other bills legalizing sports wagering were also set for public hearings in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The fiscal notes estimate Missourians will wager about $150 million annually on sporting events, resulting in tax revenue of $13 million to $15 million annually. About $1.3 million will go to cities that have one of the 13 licensed casinos, with the rest going to state education programs.

The House bill moving to the floor and two of the Senate bills are nearly identical. The third Senate bill, sponsored by Senator Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, has many of the same elements but with a higher tax rate and a role for the Missouri lottery.

The similar portions, backed by most casino operators and major sports teams, would allow fans wanting to place a bet on a game to do so at the casinos or using a licensed online platform such as FanDuel or DraftKings. The Missouri Gaming Commission would regulate and license the platforms.

Each of Missouri’s six licensed casino operators would be able to offer three platforms, or “skins,” per casino, with each casino company capped at six total.

That will allow one for each of the six major sports teams that play their games within the state — the St. Louis Cardinals, Blues, Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis City soccer club and the Kansas City Current women’s professional soccer team.

“All the pro sports teams in Missouri support sports wagering as a way to increase engagement with our fans and provide a fun and exciting new way to enjoy sports and our teams, which are such ingrained members of our communities,” Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III said at a House hearing.

“We also know that sports wagering will generate a significant source of tax revenue for Missouri.”

Only bets placed in person at a casino or through one of the approved websites would be legal in Missouri. The sports teams would each have a “designated sports district” for 400 yards around its stadium where only the team’s chosen platforms could advertise.

“The purpose of this is to allow the teams to prohibit the kind of obnoxious and ambush marketing that could otherwise occur as our fans enter stadiums and arenas with their families,” DeWitt said.

The bills identify two types of bets — a tier-one wager would be a bet on the final score or result, and a tier-two bet would be any other type of wager, such as the total points, statistics for a particular player or some potential event such as a home run or interception.

The bills require gambling platforms to use official league data for settling tier-two bets.

“This is a very important issue to the teams because we want to make sure that if fans are betting on our games, we can control the accuracy and timing of data so that some unauthorized data sources can’t game the system,” DeWitt said.

Using only league data to determine the outcome of tier-two bets is too limiting and has only one purpose, and that is money, said Ryan Soultz, Boyd Gaming’s vice president of government affairs.

Boyd Gaming, which operates as Ameristar Casino in Kansas City and St. Charles, is the only casino operator opposed to the industry-backed bills. “I can tell you I understand why the leagues want to require official data,” Soultz said. “It’s a revenue source.” Strong regulation can provide protections against unreliable data, he added. “You want to have a robust array of data feeds that come in so you can see discrepancies when you set those lines,” he said.

This story originally appeared at Missouri Independent
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