Sports Betting - Voting

  • Several states have introduced ballot proposals to legalize sports betting in their state, including California and Missouri.
  • Two initiatives regarding sports betting failed to pass during the elections on Tuesday, while two others did pass.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – While most states to legalize sports betting have done so through legislation, several states have had difficulty getting such legislation past the finish line. As a result, multiple states have taken to ballot initiatives to bring the issue directly to the voters.

Notably, California has four separate initiatives that have been filed to appear on the 2022 ballot; currently, just one of those is slated to be on the ballot, though the others could appear. California requires a simple majority to pass a ballot measure, giving sports betting a good chance of passing in California through the ballot initiative.

California is not the only state to go with the ballot proposal route, however – Missouri has filed nine ballot initiatives that would regulate and legalize a sports betting industry in the state on the 2022 ballot.

In Missouri, the ballot measures regarding the sports betting industry have been strongly supported and sponsored by Missouri’s professional sports teams, with each of the proposals being filed on behalf of the St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Blues, Kansas City Royals, and the City Soccer Club.

The ballot proposals in Missouri are a direct result of inaction from the state’s legislature. Legalizing sports betting, as evidenced by recent votes nationwide, is a popular idea among voters; however, more than 20 potential sports betting bills have failed in the legislature since 2019.

The ballot measures are seen as a way to work around hesitant legislators and enact the will of their constituents.

While several states – including bordering Arkansas – have had great success with legalizing sports betting through ballot measures, it is not foolproof.

Failed Gambling Expansion Measures

New Jersey voters had a ballot proposal to lift the current restrictions on wagers on in-state college teams and events to vote on during their state-wide elections on Tuesday. The measure, also known as Question 1, was voted down 57% to 33%.

Similarly, voters in Virginia voted down a proposed new casino in Richmond, though the results were a much closer 51% – 49% with all but one of the 77 precincts reporting.

Meanwhile, two ballot measures regarding sports betting did pass on Tuesday – voters of Nashua, New Hampshire voted to approve a new retail sportsbook after a similar measure was struck down by voters in 2019; similarly, voters of Linn County, Iowa approved a ballot measure to bring a new retail casino to the county.

It is quite possible that other states that have failed to enact sports betting legislation will take the ballot initiative route in the near future, especially if California and Missouri’s initiatives are successful.

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