Advocates of legalized sports gambling in Kansas recently endorsed a proposal allowing the four state-sanctioned casinos to take bets on college and professional athletic events on a casino’s premises and through internet or mobile devices.
Commercial retailers and other businesses in Kansas that have sought an opportunity to engage in sports betting operations through the Kansas Lottery weren’t included in the bill submitted to the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee. The bill would deliver to the state government a 7.5 percent tax on casino wagers and 10 percent tax on mobile bets, but the legislation wouldn’t earmark a percentage of revenue for city or county governments.
If fewer than two of the casinos offered online sports wagering by July 2022, the Kansas Lottery would be able to step in and offer that internet service to gamblers. Sports bettors would have to be 21 yeas of age and in the state at the time of the bet, gambling on greyhound races would be banned and bets on high school sporting events wouldn’t be permitted.
No royalty fees would be required to be paid to NFL, MLB or other professional sports leagues based on gambling in Kansas. Tribal casinos would be allowed to engage in sports betting under separate agreements negotiated with the governor.
“We have found that sports betting has become an effective new customer acquisition tool, particularly when we are able to offer mobile wagering,” said Jeff Morris, a lobbyist with Penn National Gaming, which operates the Hollywood Casino at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. The company is the nation’s largest regional gaming operator with 41 facilities in 19 states.
During the 2019 legislative session, competing economic and political forces blocked passage of a sports gambling bill in Kansas. The current proposal wasn’t shared with Kansas Lottery officials before introduction in the 2020 session of the Legislature.
Matthew Bergmann, an attorney with a Topeka law firm that represents the Boot Hill Casino & Resort in Dodge City and the Kansas Crossing Casino in Pittsburg, said the foundation created in 2007 for establishment of the four state-owned casinos could be effectively used to integrate legal sports betting in Kansas. The licensed casino companies have so far invested $1 billion in construction, development and operation of the facilities and contributed $110 million in revenue to the state in fiscal year 2019.
“Boot Hill and Kansas Crossing strongly support sports wagering in this state,” Bergmann said.
Ryan Soultz, a representative of Boyd Gaming Corp. and the Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane, said legalization of sports gambling would foster economic development and generate government revenue for other priorities. He said the inclusion of sports betting through digital platforms was necessary to compete with off-shore sites.
A 2018 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the right of states to legalize and regulate sports gambling within their borders. So far, 20 states have adopted laws to legalize sports books.
The Unified Government of Wyandotte County supported the bill but requested it be amended to include the 2% percent or 3 percent revenue contribution to the local government consistent with existing Kansas law for casinos. The League of Kansas Municipalities was neither for or against the bill but also requested that cities and counties receive a portion of revenue.
“Sports wagering is something that many people within the state would like to see pass,” said John Goodyear, an attorney with the League of Kansas Municipalities. “It is foreseeable that more people will be making their way to these facilities, increasing the burden on local government entities.”
Russell Brien, an attorney with the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, requested revisions be made to the bill so the Prairie Band Casino and Resort could begin offering sports betting. He would prefer not to require tribes to engage in separate negotiations on sports betting with the Kansas governor.
The bill should be tweaked to ban wagering on greyhound races conducted in other states and broadcast at Kansas casinos, said Terry Humphrey, a lobbyist for the Humane Society Legislative Fund of Kansas.
Brianne Doura-Schawohl, legislative director for the National Council on Problem Gambling, said legal sports gambling would exacerbate gambling addiction problems. She recommended the bill include a provision requiring 1% of revenue be dedicated to addiction prevention and treatment services.
“Everyone who profits from sports betting bears responsibility for gambling problems,” Doura-Schawohl said. “Dedicating a portion of profits from gambling to mitigate gambling harm is an ethical imperative and an economic necessity.”