After Setback, What’s Next for Kansas Sports Betting Bill?

After Setback, What’s Next for Kansas Sports Betting Bill?
© USA Today

The legalization of sports betting in Kansas took a step backward this week.

A substitute for SB 84 failed in the Kansas House Committee of the Whole following a vote of 71-48 against the bill. The bill could return to the House for another vote, but it would need to be called back before May, the end of the session in Kansas.

Tuesday’s rejection comes less than a month after SB 84 was passed in the state Senate with a vote of 26-11. The bill was officially introduced in the House on March 10 before it was recommended that the House Committee on Federal and State Affairs review it on March 26. Even with numerous amendments, it was rejected.

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The version of SB 84 that passed in the Senate was different than what the House voted against on Tuesday.

The version that was approved by the Senate would allow each of the state’s casinos to open a retail sportsbook and partner with up to three operators. In-state facilities like Kansas Speedway would also be allowed to reach an agreement with a casino to install online sports betting.

Mobile sports betting operators would be taxed 10% on all gross gaming revenue, while land-based casinos would have a 7.5% tax rate on all revenue from sports wagering, according to the bill.

If passed, the Kansas Lottery projects more than $600 million in sports betting handle each year. Proponents of the bill believe if it is not passed, the state is missing out on potential revenue.

The substitute bill would have allowed 1,200 retailers to take sports bets, along with casinos. The state would get between 14% and 20% of the revenue. Under this bill, the Kansas Lottery would be in control of the industry and would select an approved sportsbook partner for an online platform.

Numerous issues led to the bill being rejected by the House. Some lawmakers were not in favor of allowing Sedgwick County to hold a re-vote about whether slot machines could be permitted in Wichita Greyhound Park. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported the county rejected slots in a 2007 referendum but residents have apparently been looking to turn over the decision.

If slots were allowed at the park, it would result in a breach of contract with a nearby casino that states expanded gambling is not permitted in certain areas. A re-vote could open the state to a legal challenge.

Why was Bill Rejected?

Others opposing the bill preferred that more sports betting revenue go to the state. Others wanted the lottery itself to handle the betting process. Some Democrats didn’t favor the bill unless there was a complete ban on greyhound racing. A ban on wagering on greyhound races was eventually added to the bill.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, told reporters that the bill was rejected because there wasn’t enough agreement on a number of different topics.

"There were just too many folks that wanted different things,” he said, according to the story in the Capital-Journal. “There are so many conflicting opinions.”

Future of Kansas Sports Betting

SB 84 could be called back at some point, while discussions for HB 2444 will take place. HB 2444 prioritizes a digital market with mobile sports betting apps. Retail locations would have terminals within a facility that would take sports bets. Under HB 2444, the Kansas Lottery would be in control of sports betting within the state.

There is another avenue for sports betting to be resurrected in the Kansas legislature. A bill doesn’t have to pass the House to be eligible for a conference committee. Another bill could be used for the conference. House leadership could decide it’s a priority and make the procedural moves to conference with the Senate on it.

The two branches in Kansas will need to form one bill that each could come to terms with before sending it to Gov. Laura Kelly for approval.

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