Kaitlin Klasen, SLU/YouGov Poll research assistant, provides analysis on legalizing sports betting in Missouri following the release of the February 2023 SLU/YouGov Poll results.
In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal law banning sports betting and returned the right to determine sports betting laws to the states. Sports betting is now legal in 36 states, but despite several bills considered by the Missouri state legislature over the past five years, all sports betting remains illegal in Missouri. Thousands of Missourians then travel to one of the six bordering states where sports betting is legal or try to place sports bets online from within the state.
Advocates of legalizing sports betting argue it would allow the state to regulate betting and collect tax revenues, generating millions for education funds. Meanwhile, more than 103,000 Missourians currently struggle with a gambling disorder, and opponents raise the concern that legal sports betting could worsen gambling addictions. Past attempts at legalizing sports betting have been hindered by disagreements about including integrity fees for professional teams to offset the costs of protecting games from tampering. Attempts to tie reduction legislation to illegal slot machines have also introduced complications.
Two bills (HB 581 and HB 556) filed in the current legislative session would legalize sports betting in Missouri for those over 21 years old. Both bills include measures to research how best to assist compulsive gamblers, exclusive rights for major sports teams to control advertising of sports books around their stadiums and a 10% tax with revenues going to Missouri’s education fund. HB 556 also bans “prop bets” on individual performances of college athletes. Neither includes regulating video lottery terminals. These bills find opposition from representatives of professional players who want protection from fans upset over losing bets.
When asked by the SLU/YouGov Poll in February 2023 if betting on collegiate and professional sports should be legal in Missouri, 35% of Missouri voters agreed, and 41% disagreed. Voters in rural areas are less in favor of legalizing sports betting than urban and suburban voters. 24% of rural voters agreed that betting on sports should be legal in Missouri, 34% of urban voters, and 43% of suburban voters. There was also a contrast between younger and older voters. 51% of voters aged 18-29 agreed that betting on collegiate and professional sports should be legal in Missouri, compared to only 23% of voters aged 65+.