Kansas could become the first Midwestern state this year to legalize sports betting — and despite controversy, the bill that is currently moving forward in the state Senate should appeal to sportsbook operators. On Wednesday, after a new amendment was added and one senator tried to rewrite the bill on the floor, the full Senate passed SB 283, 23-15. The bill will now move on to the House, likely the week after next. Kansas’ legislative session ends on May 31.
The bill was introduced by the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee on Jan. 21 and had no opposition in committee, but on Wednesday, multiple amendments were put forth. The only one that passed would send 2% of sports betting revenue to fund gambling addiction programs, a move hailed on social media by the National Council on Problem Gambling.
Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle offered amendment that will provide 2% of sports betting revenue for #problemgambling!
Thank you @SenatorWagle for standing up for the people of Kansas, and thank you @BrianneDoura for all your work to support this!https://t.co/B61R4yvni7 pic.twitter.com/uX3Sf0mQOz
— NCPG (@NCPGambling) February 26, 2020
The bill, which includes a 7.5% tax on gross gaming revenue at retail locations and 10% for online GGR, would allow for sports betting at each of Kansas’ four existing casinos. Each location would be entitled to two online skins (brands), which means the state could have up to eight mobile platforms. The bill also calls for sports betting at Kansas’ only two major professional sports venues — Children’s Mercy Park (MLS) and Kansas Speedway.
House has its own vision for sports betting
The bill is one of two floating around Topeka. The other bill, HB 2671, has been in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee since Feb. 13 when it was introduced. That bill is slightly different from the Senate version in that it would allow the Kansas Lottery to sell some sports betting tickets, making legal wagering accessible through thousands of current lottery vendors. According to the Associated Press, the House plans to open the conversation on its bill in March.
Kansas lawmakers who want to legalize betting on sports events and allow online sales of lottery tickets are struggling to agree on the details. They also face criticism that they’re too generous to companies already managing casinos for the state. https://t.co/XmfaJPdf2A
— KSN News Wichita (@KSNNews) February 27, 2020
Under the bill the Senate approved, the state lottery would oversee sports betting, but would be the “licensee or owner” of any sports betting software — a situation similar to how the state’s casinos are currently run. The casinos are owned by the state, which contracts out to commercial operators to run them. The bill also limits the sale of online lottery tickets while the House bill would allow for that. The iLottery component could slow down passage of sports betting and/or force more negotiation going forward.
In arguing against the current version of the Senate bill, Tom Holland, who introduced an amendment that would have made wholesale changes to SB 283, picked apart nearly every section of the bill. His key concerns were that the state wouldn’t be getting its fair share, and that operators should pay the state for the “privilege” of being able to have mobile platforms.
“My fear is that the state is leaving money on the table,” Holland said on the floor. “If we’re going to extend that platform into a third-party private enterprise, by golly, the state ought to be getting some jack for that, and I’m not seeing that.”
Pressure mounts as nearby states legalize, go live
Kansas lawmakers may be feeling pressure to move forward with sports betting, as Colorado to the west has already legalized and its new state law stipulates that operations begin by May 1, 2020. In addition, neighboring Missouri also held hearings on sports betting this week, though there are multiple bills in the general assembly there, and it’s unclear if lawmakers will be able to come to a consensus and move one forward.
@MoGov just letting you all know if Kansas passes the sports betting while you all sit on your hands people will be taking their entertainment money across the state line, myself included. Why does Missouri always have to be the tortoise.
— Mike Beck (@mbeck35) February 27, 2020
To the north, there is at least one sports betting bill circulating in the Nebraska state legislature, while both nearby Iowa and Arkansas have legal sports betting, although it’s limited to one physical shop in Arkansas. Colorado will have state-wide mobile sports betting, and Iowa already does.
Kansas lawmakers are taking up sports betting for the third consecutive year, and despite the controversy that is starting to arise, appear to have much more of a consensus about what sports betting should like than they did last year.