The Kansas House Committee on Federal and State Affairs heard Tuesday from those for and against legal sports betting in the state, and after 90 minutes of testimony and discussion, it opted to hold off on “working the bill” until next week amid concerns that lawmakers hadn’t had enough time to study the issue.`
The legislature is set to adjourn on May 20 and, before then, lawmakers will begin to hit deadlines for moving bills forward, causing some members to suggest that the committee act more swiftly.
“I fear it will get clogged up,” one representative said in the closing minutes of the hearing. He suggested that amendments to the bill could be brought up on the House floor. Because the legislature is in the second session of its biennium, he pointed out, “if it doesn’t get done this year, we have to start from the beginning.”
In spite of that, Committee Chair John Barker opted to wait, saying he’s hopeful his colleagues can get up to speed and issues can be negotiated in time for a Monday meeting.
As it stands now, HB 2740 would allow for statewide mobile gaming and has the support of the casino and racetrack lobbies, Major League Soccer’s Sporting KC (the only major professional team in the state), and the local convenience store lobby. Under the bill, certain lottery locations would be able to offer sports betting via kiosk, and the legislation would also legalize historic horse racing machines at a single site in Sedgwick County.
As called for by state law, wagering would be overseen by the state lottery, though casinos would operate their own sportsbooks and be taxed by the state, rather than in partnership with it. Casinos in Kansas have long run under this setup, and it’s a non-issue in terms of moving a sports betting bill forward.
Operators push back on tax rates
At issue on the operator side are tax rates that are “a little high,” according to lobbyist Whitney Damron, who spoke on behalf of Hollywood Casinos, which is operated by Penn National Gaming (Barstool Sportsbook).
“We’d like the opportunity to bring those down,” he added.
After some bickering on the part of various interests, I think that we finally have an agreement on a bill with HB 2740. I'm a strong YES; this issue is the one I hear about the most, second only to public education. #ksleg
— ❄️Stephanie Clayton❄️ (@SSCJoCoKs) March 22, 2022
The current House bill calls for digital sports betting to be taxed at a rate of 20% and retail wagering to be taxed at 14%. A Senate bill carried over from 2021 would tax digital betting at 8% and retail wagering at 5.5%. Among the other differences between the Senate and House versions of the bills are:
- The House bill does not allow for promotional write-offs for operators, but the Senate bill does.
- The House bill allows Sporting KC, but not Kansas Speedway, to take part in wagering, while the Senate bill allows for both to get a slice of the pie.
- The Senate bill would allow for a family member of someone affiliated with a sportsbook or casino to wager at an “unaffiliated” location, while the House bill prohibits wagering completely for those in the business and their families.
- The Senate bill specifies that wagering on events involving students in grades 1-12 is prohibited, while the House bill is slightly less succinct.
- The House bill would designate $100,000 for problem gambling funding, while the Senate bill would allot 2% of gross gaming revenue.
More money for PG; greyhound tracks want in
Consultant Brianne Doura-Schawohl, representing the National Council on Problem Gambling, testified in support of HB 2740 — with the caveat that problem gambling advocates would like to see funding raised to 2% of gross gaming revenue and stronger guidance used around advertising, responsible gaming plans, and responsible gaming training.
Opponents of the bill include the greyhound lobby, which would like to be included in the discussion. Kansas has greyhound tracks and such racing is legal, but it is not currently taking place in the state.
“We’re not sure why we are impacted by this because it’s a sports betting bill,” said Michael Neal on behalf of the Greater Kansas Racing Association. “We were amended out [of the bill], but we were not consulted.”