ST. LOUIS – Frustrations with the Missouri Legislature have reached a tipping point for the St. Louis Cardinals over the issue of legalized sports betting.
In a one-on-one interview, Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III told FOX 2 that Missouri’s top pro sports teams are shifting their focus to putting the issue before voters.
When it comes to doing interviews, DeWitt is typically pretty measured. His passion is coming out of this issue after hitting road blocks in the Missouri Legislature four to five years in row, as neighboring states have legalized sports betting.
“We feel like it’s kind of ‘Groundhog Day’… (Legalization) is going to happen, whether it’s this year, next year, the year after, or in five years,” he said. “For us to throw away this money that’s sitting there in the state of Missouri is just insanity.”
Once again, a sports betting bill easily passed in the Missouri House only to get bogged down in the Missouri Senate, where measures to legalize video slot machines for bars and gas stations again were added onto the legislation. The legislative session ends Friday.
“It’s honestly the most cynical political thing I’ve ever seen. It’s frustrating and fans should be frustrated,” DeWitt said. “It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
The top pro teams in St. Louis and Kansas City are shifting their focus from the state capitol to their fans, DeWitt said. They’re already mapping out plans for getting the needed signatures from the public to get onto the 2024 ballot.
“We’re all together on this. We all feel like it’s time to get this done. We’ve already sketched out what that’s going to look like. I just don’t think we have any choice but to pursue that option … which, actually, we’re pretty well primed to able to do,” DeWitt laughed, speaking of signature gathering. “We have a few people coming through the doors here.”
The Cardinals typically draw more than three million fans at Busch Stadium each year, more than nearly every other team in Major League Baseball.
More and more, fans want to be able to bet on things like a certain player hitting a home run, stealing a base, or striking out.
“Baseball in particular is good with the prop bets where you have time in between innings and pitches to bet on things other than the outcome which people have had some fun with in other states,” DeWitt said.
Fans can now legally do so in neighboring states, just not in Missouri.
“Our fans are just going across the street to Illinois to do it. Over in Kansas City, they’re just going to Kansas City, Kansas, to do it. That tax revenue is just leaving the state. It’s just really silly,” DeWitt said.
Sports betting is expected to generate $20 million to $40 million a year in state tax revenue, plus millions for the sports teams via sponsorship deals.