A day after multiple animal-rights groups spoke against HB 2671, Kansas lawmakers continued their hearing about legal sports betting on Thursday, but the Committee on Federal and State Affairs adjourned with no vote on the issue.
Kansas has several sports betting bills circulating in Topeka, and the animal-rights groups aside, HB 2671 is considered by many to be the most unpopular because it allows the Kansas Lottery to not only regulate and operate, but also because of the high tax rate (14% retail gross gaming revenue, 20% mobile) and an “official league data” mandate. Casinos, racetracks (dog and horse), pro sports venues and the lottery could offer sports betting, both mobile and retail.
While lobbyists from at least two local casinos testified in favor of the bill with grave reservations, national operator FanDuel Sportsbook, which runs retail sports betting for Boyd Gaming in Kansas, signed in to testify as neutral.
Senate version of sports betting favored
“This bill has the Kansas Lottery as an owner, operator, regulator and competitor,” testified Whitney Damron on behalf of the Hollywood Casino. “We don’t see this an appropriate model.” Damron went on to say that similar models are active in some states, with mixed results.
Through the Lottery, up to 1,200 retailers across Kansas could offer sports betting.
Among the other states where sports betting is operated and regulated by the Lottery are Delaware, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. In these cases, there is a single operator offering sports betting, and no competition. Washington, D.C. will be in a similar situation when sports betting goes live there. The D.C. Lottery will have a monopoly on mobile sports betting, though professional sports venues and bars and restaurants can offer mobile and retail sports betting within their confines.
Horse racing and dog racing could return to Kansas.https://t.co/L0LgFZtIcS
— Jack White (@horseracingceo) March 12, 2020
Many of those who testified suggested that SB 283, the Senate version of the bill, is one they would support. That bill, which has already passed out of the Senate, calls for state-wide mobile sports betting, sets the tax rate at 10% for mobile wagering and 7.5% for retail wagering, and does not have an official league data mandate. The bill allows for two online skins per retail sportsbook.
On Thursday, both Damron and Kevin Fowler, representing the Kansas Crossing and Kansas Star Casinos, pointed to key differences that make HB 2671 unpalatable to operators.
“With this bill, there could be sports betting in the grocery store, and there is no limit” to the number of Lottery kiosks, Fowler said.
Said Damron: “The 20% tax rate is too high for the Midwest. And we should not have to be required to work with the (pro) leagues on investigations. We would cooperate with the regulator” as we do in other states.
They also pointed out that the legal age to purchase a lottery ticket in Kansas is 18, and the legal age for sports betting under the bill is 21, which could create some confusion.
For comparison, the two other states closest to Kansas with legal sports betting are Iowa and Colorado, which have set tax rates at 6.75% and 10%, respectively. Operators have offered live sports betting in Iowa since last August, and Colorado is set to launch on May 1. Among Kansas’ other border states, Missouri has one bill on the House floor awaiting vote and Nebraska has a bill in committee on the House side.
The Kansas legislature is set to adjourn on May 31, meaning lawmakers still have plenty of time to consider bills. The House could move sports betting quickly if it chooses to entertain SB 283, and let HB 2671 die in committee. It appears, however, that Governor Laura Kelly supports the House version of sports betting.
Of course, this is all pending major upheavals in and meetings of state and federal government, amid the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.