Like its Senate counterpart last week, the Kansas House Committee on Federal and State Affairs held a two-day hearing to listen to testimony related to legalizing sports betting. The most vocal and prolific lobby was animal rescue and humane society groups pushing for legal sports betting to not include greyhound racing or allow greyhound tracks to accept wagers.
HB 2199, which would legalize mobile and retail sports betting and iLottery, does not allow for wagering on greyhound races, but does leave open the door for a greyhound track to contract for sports wagering. Horse or greyhound racetracks could be potential “sports facility managers,” which are approved lottery sports betting partners.
The bill would allow for pro franchises/venues to offer retail and mobile sports betting, and Penn National/Barstool Sports already operates a casino at one, Kansas Speedway.
Greyhound advocacy groups said they would support a bill that does not allow for wagering on greyhound racing or for greyhound tracks to host sports betting facilities. They also pointed to the strain that such racing places on a jurisdiction.
“I’ve seen racetracks fail and it was a horrific site, said Kate Fields, the CEO of the greater Kansas City humane society. “It was unprofitable, and [in one case] 80 dogs were left to die, and non-profits were left to pick up the pieces. Greyhound racing is an embarrassment, it’s not profitable, and it’s [terrible] for the dogs.”
Operators voice concerns over bill
Among those who submitted written testimony opposed to the HB 2199 was Jeff Morris of Penn National Gaming. According to his testimony, his company opposes the bill because of high tax rates and the mandate to use official league data.
His company also believes that sports betting licenses should be limited to “existing licensed gaming operators, who have invested billions in economic development in Kansas.”
Boyd Gaming’s Ryan Soultz also wrote of concerns with the HB 2199, but submitted his testimony as neutral. Boyd Gaming owns and operates the Kansas Star Casino. Both Soultz and Morris testified in favor of SB 84 last week.
Thursday’s testimony from opponents and neutral parties followed Wednesday’s Part 1 of the hearing, which featured in-person testimony from Rep. John Barker and Jason Watkins of the Ruffin Companies and Kansans for Fair Play, representing local racetracks. Major League Soccer’s Sporting KC and the Kansas Association of Broadcasters, both of whom offered testimony in the Senate, were among those who filed written testimony.
Senate bill vs. House bill
“It’s my belief that the Senate bill was written by the casinos,” he testified. “It’s like the tail wagging the dog.”
— Kansas Reflector (@KansasReflector) February 11, 2021
Among the key differences between the Senate and House bill are:
- Tax rate: Senate bill sets rate at 7.5% of gross gaming revenue for retail wagering and 10% for digital; the House bill sets the rate at 14% for retail and 20% for digital;
- The Senate bill would not allow racetracks to contract for sports wagering while the House version does;
- The House bill would allow for 1,200 lottery vendors to offer sports wagering while the Senate version would not; and
- The Senate version does not require the use of official league data while the House version does.
Consensus would be needed
Both bills name the Kansas Lottery as the regulator, allow for statewide mobile sports betting, and would allow for professional sports venues to partner with sports betting operators. There are differences that would need to be hammered out in terms of exactly who else besides pro venues and casinos could offer sports betting, depending on which bill moves forward.
There was no vote or resolution after the two-day House hearing. Because the Federal and State Affairs committees are considered “exempt” by the Kansas Legislature, there is no immediate need to act on the bills. The legislature is in session until April May 15.
On the Senate side, the Federal and State Affairs Committee plans to “work the bill” at its Feb. 24 meeting.