Kansas Puts the Breaks on Legalized Sports Betting in State House

Kansas Puts the Breaks on Legalized Sports Betting

  • Surprisingly, Kansas House halted sports betting legislation progress going forward
  • Kansas joins North Dakota as 2nd US state saying “no” to sports wagering in two weeks
  • The issue is not dead as yet with legislators having until May to potentially reverse a decision

The oldest parable in gambling that nothing is a “sure thing” is becoming reinforced again. While many US states are being counted as certain to add sports gambling legislation this year, we can now likely exclude Kansas from the list.

Last week state lawmakers defeated a bill set to legalize sports betting in the Kansas House’s Committee of the Whole by a 71-48, not allowing it to the full House floor and an eventual trip to the Governor. Originally, Senate Bill 84 was passed out of the Kansas Senate in early March.

It might be a potential trend evolving around the nation. Something that only illegal bookmakers and the offshore wagering industry may hope for. A week earlier, North Dakota legislators also voted down their mobile-only sports wagering bill.

Although it may not signal a certain end to sports wagering for Kansas, the prospects for approval are not likely this year. By procedure SB 84 could return to the House for another potential vote before May when the 2021 session concludes in the state.

Senate Bill 84 Had Optimistic Prospects

SB 84 was enthusiastically passed in the Senate on March 3 with a 26-12 vote. Following a formal introduction into the House on March 10 it was recommended to House Committee on Federal Affairs for review. Once amended it was subsequently rejected by the House Committee of the Whole.

The revised legislation would have permitted bettors in Kansas to place bets online via phones and computers and also in-person at state lottery retailers and casinos.

Unlike North Dakota’s online-only proposal, the Kansas legislation was quite accommodating to retail onsite location wagering. Besides casinos, this version included the Kansas Speedway and racetracks to offer sports wagering. It would have also allowed for betting at as many as 1,200 lotteries/convenience stores in the state via kiosks.

As per the bill, the casinos would have been able to have a maximum of three mobile sports betting operators per location. Each platform would be taxed 10% on all gross gaming revenue (GGR) with land-based locations receiving a 7.5% rate on all revenue accrued from sports wagering handle.

Several legislators had confident, optimistic visions for SB 84 including Rep. Brandon Woodard (D)- Lenexa, who expressed his thoughts:

 This would generate revenue for what we could use for services that are very important in Kansas, like funding our public schools, and social services that Kansans rely on.

Many Other Issues Involved

Part of SB 84’s halt has been blamed on it being interspersed with other issues not necessarily involved within one specific discussion.

Surprisingly, it lost many Democrat supporters who were counted upon for approval without a coinciding ban on greyhound, or dog racing in the state. There was a complete ban on wagering on greyhound races added later into the bill. Rep. Woodard additionally commented:

Dog racing is not popular. There is an end of dog racing going across the country. We hear about the stories of how the greyhounds that can race are treated, but we don’t hear about the ones that are not eligible to race.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, said that the bill failed because “there were just too many folks that wanted different things. “There are so many conflicting opinions.”

Future Potential for Kansas Sports Wagering

It appears a major revision for the Kansas bill will be necessary to appease all sides to get through the next stage. While SB 84 is not officially dead, it will have to be compared to House Bill 2444. Another sports betting version to include mobile wagering but with a different landscape for retail wagering. Also, involving the Kansas Lottery in authoritative control.

Should it pass the House, both legislative branches will need to achieve an exact match as the two have passed these separate sports wagering bills.

What could happen for Kansas might be similar to what took place in Wyoming recently. A situation where pressure from bordering states legalizing sports wagering plus the need for tax funding in the burdening time of COVID-19 quickly reversed their “no” decision.

Ryckman noted that the future of the bill would ultimately hinge on Kansans making known their desire for sports betting in the waning days of the session. He firmly noted:

We’ll see if the people of the state still want sports betting. If they don’t, then I think this body has spoken. If they do, they’ll let us know.

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Larry Gibbs

Expert on Sports Betting Industry

Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.

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