Twenty-four hours after its counterpart in Missouri killed a pair of legal sports betting bills, the Kansas Senate early Friday morning approved and sent to Gov. Laura Kelly a bill that would allow for statewide mobile wagering.
The Senate approved the hotly debated bill 21-13 after the House had approved it 73-49 Thursday.
The Kansas Legislature becomes the second this year to send a sports betting bill to its governor, and the first to send a broad bill that would allow for an open, competitive marketplace. Maine lawmakers last week passed what is essentially a limited tribal sports betting bill that locks out casinos in the state from offering digital wagering. Gov. Janet Mills has not yet signed it.
By this time last year, three states had approved sports betting. So far in 2022, lawmakers in Georgia, Kentucky, and Missouri have failed to legalize despite a measure of support in all three states. In other states Thursday, the Massachusetts Senate approved a bill different from a House-passed version, setting up a conference committee to sort out differences, and a Minnesota committee voted in favor of a bill that moves the issue forward there.
Debate bled into Friday
After hours in recess much of Thursday night, Kansas lawmakers came back at about 11:45 p.m. local time for debate, some of which centered around whether historical horse racing machines are considered parimutuel wagering or casino gaming, like slot machines.
Debate continued for 90 minutes in what began to feel like a filibuster effort. Senators opposed to the legislation asked questions about if and how people would be able to bet on a mobile device; what a white-collar crime related to wagering would be; whether legalizing would make the black market disappear; and how many jobs would be created. There was also comment on the floor that wagering would “destroy lives.”
At one point, a senator opposed to the bill asked, “Instead of becoming the 33rd state to legalize this, why don’t we become the second state to legalize prostitution? Talk about job creation … ”
— Jason Tidd (@Jason_Tidd) April 29, 2022
But at 1:15 a.m. Friday, the Senate president closed debate. After discussion of a public health bill, a roll call vote at 1:38 resulted in passage of the sports betting legislation.
The bill, which the House initially passed in early April, requires that sports betting launch by Jan. 1, 2023, creating what could be a tight timeline for the regulator, depending on when Kelly signs it. In most states, it takes about six months to promulgate regulations and approve applications, though a handful of states have moved faster.
Conference committee solves issue
The bill, originally approved in the House, was amended by a conference committee. It earmarks 80% of wagering tax revenue for a fund designed to attract professional sports teams to the state and also directs 2% of tax revenue to problem and responsible gambling programs.
The bill requires that digital platforms be tethered to existing casinos, sets a 10% tax rate, awards up to three skins (digital platforms) to each of the state’s casinos, and allows up to 50 qualified private entities to contract with license holders to offer wagering via kiosks.
There are four commercial casinos in the state, including ones operated by Penn National Gaming (Barstool Sportsbook) and Boyd Gaming..
On one issue that is becoming more and more prevalent nationwide, the bill would allow sportsbooks to write off promotional play from gross gaming revenue before being taxed. Coincidentally, Colorado lawmakers Thursday discussed a bill that would reduce the percentage of promotional play eligible to be written off in that state.