Kansas lawmakers are going back to school once again, and on Tuesday, they got quite an earful when Ohio senator Bill Coley said that he thought that none of the eight states that have legalized sports betting have gotten it right, according to US Bets.
Coley, who is the chairman of Ohio’s Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee and heads the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States was invited to speak before a Kansas special committee. He’s clearly in the camp of the pro sports leagues, as he said “If we get it right, the big winners are the leagues. Mark Cuban said it right, the value of your franchise just doubles.” Lawmakers hope to one day legalize Ohio sportsbooks in the state.
A day after the hearing, the Kansas City Star reported that Coley had invited Kansas lawmakers to attend an industry sponsored conference in New Orleans in January. That invitation has Kansas lawmakers arguing in the press as Republican Bud Estes, the chairman of the Kansas Special Committee on Federal and State Affairs, which hosted Tuesday’s hearing, doesn’t see any conflict with attending the conference while Democrat John Carmichael called attending the conference “far beyond the bounds of propriety.”
Either way, the committee cancelled a second hearing date, initially scheduled for today, and Estes is recommending that the committee hold off on making a recommendation about whether or not to pursue sports betting until after the New Orleans conference. The conference is scheduled to start on Jan. 4, 10 days before Kansas’ legislature goes into session. Estes suggested that his committee could meet in the week after the conference and before the session opens to discuss whether or not to move forward.
What’s Up With Kansas Sports Betting? Second Day of Committee Meeting Cancelled Without Recommendation
Coley on Tuesday told Kansas lawmakers that states should act as financial middlemen between the professional sports leagues and sportsbooks and favors paying the leagues a fee, as reported by US Bets. None of the states with legal sports betting pays the professional leagues a fee, though the leagues have been lobbying for one since early this year. In fact, the Washington, D.C. Council, which is on the cusp of legalizing sports betting in the nation’s capital, just last week removed a pro-league fee from its bill, though it will still mandate that league data be used.
In any event, Coley was one of a handful of speakers, including representatives from the NBA and Major League Baseball, before the committee, which had scheduled a two-day hearing to learn more about sports betting. But according to the Kansas state legislature’s website, the second day of the hearing was cancelled.
An email inquiry to committee chairman Estes, whose capital office is closed during the break, was not immediately returned.
Kansas was among the first states in 2018 to take up sports betting. In March, state lawmakers held an informational meeting to learn about sports betting. During the meeting, a casino lobbyist ripped the professional leagues in their pursuit of an integrity fee. And yet, 10 days later, the Kansas Sports Wagering Act was introduced and it had … yes, an integrity fee.
During that March hearing, one lawmaker said: “This is more complex than I thought. I guess I was pretty naive on this deal. I feel like if we don’t do this right, we can really mess it up.”
Kansas Should Be Feeling Pressure to Legalize, But Lacks Consensus
Eight months later, Kansas lawmakers are still being lobbied for an integrity fee, but now from a different source. And the state has to be feeling some pressure to legalize sports betting. Just last weekend, Missouri senator Denny Hoskins filed a sports betting bill and two days later, Missouri representative Cody Smith filed one, as well. Missouri is the only one of Kansas’ border states that is moving toward legal sports betting, but the states share a key border that runs through Kansas City, so Kansas stands to lose plenty if Missouri beats it to the punch.
But just as was clear in the spring, Kansas lawmakers are split. In the Kansas City Star, Estes all but called his colleague Carmichael ignorant, while Carmichael shot back that he doesn’t need to be “educated at a legislative junket hosted by the gaming industry.”
What happens next? That’s anyone’s guess. But it’s likely fair to say that Kansas lawmakers must first find common ground before legalizing sports betting.