A day after a disagreement between members of a Kansas House committee, a sports betting bill moved through the House on Wednesday afternoon.
Given the disagreement Tuesday, there were doubts about the state’s sports betting future, but Wednesday’s discussion illustrated the appetite of Kansas legislators to legalize sports wagering. SB 84, a bill that passed through the Senate in 2021, was gutted via an amendment Wednesday and given the contents of HB 2740. The move helped push SB 84 through the House on an 88-36 vote, potentially paving the way for legal sports wagering in Kansas.
If enacted by the Senate as well as the House, the bill would allow for both retail and online sports betting in the state. The four state-owned casinos in Kansas each could work with up to three online sports betting partners. The Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, which currently oversees the state’s casinos, would be the sports betting regulator. Under the bill, wagers could be accepted on both professional and collegiate sporting events, giving Kansas University fans an opportunity to wager on the Jayhawks.
It’s also worth noting that Kansas Native American tribes could alter gaming their gaming compacts to include sports wagering offerings. Tribes own six casinos in the state.
The tax rate on sports wagering revenue will likely be ironed out during a joint committee meeting, as the House bill sought a 14% tax rate on retail bets and 20% on mobile wagers. The Senate bill’s tax rate was 7.5% on retail bets and 10% on online bets.
Amendment helps move bill forward
The amendment to have SB 84 take on the contents of HB 2740 came one day after legislators debated HB 2740 in the Kansas House Committee on Federal and State Affairs, but didn’t take a vote on the bill. The amendment introduced Wednesday effectively served as a way to help move the contents of the debated bill forward while bypassing any additional committee roadblocks.
Not everyone was pleased with the process that some House members went through in recent days to move the bill forward.
“I think that the process, if you can call it that, regarding this bill over the last two days has been deeply flawed, but because sports gaming is something that many of my constituents want, I will hold my nose and vote yes,” one House member said Wednesday.
While the vote wasn’t unanimous, Rep. Stephanie Clayton, a supporter of sports betting, expected a closer vote and was pleasantly surprised by the final result.
“I thought the vote would be fairly tight, but we ended up passing it with more than a supermajority,” Clayton told Sports Handle.
Notable amendments added to the bill included increased allocation of funds to problem gambling initiatives. That faced minimal pushback, although a few House members shared their moral opposition to gambling and noted the potential for increased addiction problems.
The bill heads to a joint conference committee for additional work, which Clayton expected to occur Wednesday afternoon and evening. The goal of that committee is to come to terms on a version of the bill that both the House and the Senate would accept. Clayton expects a few technical changes to the bill, but nothing dramatic.
Clayton told Sports Handle she expects the House and Senate to continue moving quickly with hopes of getting the bill to Gov. Laura Kelly’s desk in the immediate future.
“We could see a vote … as early as tomorrow,” Clayton said Wednesday. “That’s kind of what I’m hoping.”
H Sub Sub SB 84: sports wagering passes 88-36 on Emergency Final Action. I voted YES. #ksleg Senate, it's your move. We can beat the #moleg; their Senate is making it weird.
— ❄️Stephanie Clayton❄️ (@SSCJoCoKs) March 30, 2022
Sports betting proponents in Kansas are motivated in part by a desire to legalize sports wagering before Missouri. Missouri legislators moved a bill through the House last week, and Kansans seem highly interested in keeping pace with Missouri, perhaps even passing legislation by the end of this week.
“As a Kansas legislator I am excited, because it’s my understanding that the Missouri Senate is holding up their sports wagering bill. So if we can get our senators to just get in line with this, I know our governor will sign it as soon as it comes to her,” Clayton said.