Days of laborious debate by a Senate committee culminated Monday with passage of a sports gambling bill that illustrated the challenge of developing consensus on legislation to bring legal betting to Kansas.
The committee’s wrangling produced a bill authorizing statewide mobile wagering on sports and operation of sports books at each of the state’s four casinos. The state would apply a tax rate of 10% on revenue from online sports wagering and 7.5% for sports betting revenue in the brick-and-mortar casinos.
Kansas Lottery ticket merchants and other retailers wouldn’t be allowed to handle sports bets under the Senate bill, but evolution of the legislative debate in the House and Senate could lead to a compromise that adds retailers to the mix. The bill currently wouldn’t require casinos to buy sports data from the NFL, NBA or other professional leagues.
Casinos would have to retain for at least 60 days information on people wagering more than $1,200 in a 24-hour period. Betting on greyhound racing would be prohibited in Kansas, but earmarks for revenue from sports gambling would provide $800,000 to support resumption of horse racing at Eureka Downs, $750,000 for white-collar crime investigations and cash for college scholarships.
Legal sports gamblers in Kansas would have to be 21 years of age. Sporting events at the high school level or below wouldn’t be eligible for sports books.
“I think we’ve probably ridden this horse long enough,” said Sen. Bud Estes, a Dodge City Republican and chairman of the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee. “This should bring a little bit more money into the state treasury.”
The Senate committee discussed at length a proposal made last week by Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe, to mandate the casinos buy official sports information from the professional leagues.
“To me,” Olson said, “I’d rather see official data. I know the casinos don’t like this piece.”
Sen. Jeff Longbine, an Emporia Republican and the chamber’s vice president, said the state shouldn’t establish a framework that ordered professional leagues to enter into data contracts with the casinos in Dodge City, Pittsburg, Mulvane and Kansas City, Kan. It would make the leagues business partners of the casinos and, by extension, the state of Kansas.
“No bid process. No negotiation. It’s a single-source vendor,” said Longbine, who also urged colleagues not to get too deep into the regulatory weeds.
Estes, the committee chairman, said forcing casinos to purchase data from the leagues was equivalent to “throwing the fox in the hen house.”
Olson also failed to convince senators on the committee to give professional sports leagues the authority to advise the Kansas Lottery on what type of bets related to specific elements of a game would be allowed. The state can make use of insight from professionals on which bets might be vulnerable to cheaters, he said.
The Kansas Lottery would have oversight of sports gambling in a manner consistent with its supervision of the four “state-owned” casinos. The Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission also would be involved.
In the House, a rival sports gambling bill would go far beyond legislation in the Senate by allowing as many as 1,200 licensed retailers to participate in the emerging sports betting industry in Kansas.
Rep. John Barker, an Abilene Republican and chairman of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, said his bill would enable operators of defunct dog racing tracks in Kansas to engage in sports betting if those facilities reopened.
A 2018 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the right of states to legalize sports gambling.