Kansas has followed the lead of other U.S. states by introducing a sports betting legalization bill in the wake of the impending Supreme Court decision on the issue. The bill, brought by Kansas House Federal and State Affairs Committee, is seeking to legalize sports betting in state-owned casinos, online and on mobile devices.
Kansas joins the likes of its neighboring states Missouri and West Virginia, as well as Indiana, Illinois, New York and then obviously New Jersey. The state of New jersey actually sits at the forefront of the issue as its Supreme Court case (Christie v. the NCAA) is set to potentially lift or partially lift PASPA, the US federal ban on sports betting of any kind.
As has become customary when a state shows its interest in allowing sports wagering, the professional sports leagues were right on its heels to remind everyone that they want their cut, while simultaneously saying “it’s not all about the money”.
Major League Baseball senior vice president and deputy general counsel Bryan Seeley addressed the league’s stance on the proposed Kansas bill and again trumpeted MLB’s oft-repeated position on sports gambling including its arguably unjustified request for a one percent integrity fee.
“It’s not simply about whether we get a share of the profits, although we think that is appropriate. But there are a host of provisions it is important to put into place to protect the integrity of the game. Anything that gives players an incentive to not perform at their absolute peak is a huge danger to our business and can cost us tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars.”
Seeley was quick to point out scandals of the past (the decades-old gambling-related ones, not recent steroid-related ones) and make his case for why legislatures should make sure to protect the integrity of the game and be sure that the state has an active role in enforcing that integrity while also paying MLB for using its intellectual property.
“Major League Baseball has had a long history with sports betting. We’ve had scandals. We’ve had Pete Rose. We’ve had the Black Sox scandal. It’s an issue that’s been at the forefront of our minds for a very long time.”
Seeley claimed professional sports leagues aren’t as concerned with something like the Black Sox scandal in which the Chicago White Sox intentionally lost their World Series to the Cincinnati Reds while accepting money from bookies, as it would be presumably harder to accomplish such a heinous act in modern times than way back in 1919.
The types of wagers MLB is so worried about are the myriad of options outside simple game outcomes such as what type of pitch a pitcher’s first pitch may be, which manager gets fired next, etc. Seeley explained:
“Those are the kind of bets we worry about. That’s why we want to have a say in whether casinos can offer those kinds of bets.”
Republican representative John Barker, chairman of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, recognizes not only the interest in sports betting that exists on a national level (particularly with the NCAA Tournament beginning this week), but the potential for monetary gain on the part of the state. All that being said, he’s a little skeptical that the bill will be able to go far, but very open to the possibility of changing that opinion.
“It is tournament time, and I was amazed to read that several billion dollars are being bet on March Madness illegally in the United States. You never know what the Supreme Court’s going to do, but a number of states have kind of jumped on the bandwagon looking at this. There’s a possibility (the bill gets passed). It’s a great revenue source. It would not be a big revenue source, but it would be a good revenue source.”
Echoing Barker’s sentiments is Whitney Darmon, a lobbyist who represents the company hired to operate Hollywood Casino in Kansas City, Kansas. While not as big a fan of the online and mobile options the bill would allow for, Darmon definitely sees the potential for the popularity of sports betting in the state’s gambling community.
“It's another amenity that we have customers who would like to participate in. And certainly right now, as the NCAA tournament begins, people are very fascinated by that. The public does have an interest in this kind of wagering. It can be provided in a protected manner.”
The push comes in the wake of another recent push to help bring back greyhound and horse racing tracks to the state. Lawmakers voted on a bill out of committee to allow slot machines at the tracks and reduce the fees owed by tracks to the states from 40 percent of their earnings down to around 22 percent, which would match fees paid by state-owned casinos. With these issues coming to the forefront in the Sunflower State, it’s good news for gambling aficionados that Kansas is making moves to be ready for the Christie v. NCAA verdict.