House Choosing Hard Way On Kansas Sports Betting Effort

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Kansas sports betting

Lawmakers in the Kansas House intend to pass their own sports betting bill rather than work with the legislation passed by the Senate last month.

The House State and Local Affairs Committee dropped S 283 from the docket of two Kansas sports betting hearings held on consecutive days last week, instead of focusing solely on House bill 2671.

Rep. John Barker, chair of the committee, said the House would pass its own bill and go to conference to reconcile the bills.

“The Senate now has a position that they’ve passed,” Barker said. “The House needs to have a position so that when we go to conference, we can negotiate with the Senate. And, as always, we would like for the House to always prevail, but we will see when we go to conference.”

Differences in Kansas sports betting bills

Even though S 283 wasn’t on the agenda for the hearings Wednesday and Thursday, the bill passed by the Senate on Feb. 26 remained a large part of the discussion.

Jason Long, of the Office of Revisor of Statutes, began the proceedings by explaining the key differences between the bills:

Senate bill

House bill

Casinos oppose House sports betting bill

Representatives of Kansas’ four casinos outlined their major issues with the House bill, including the tax rate, official league data mandate, lottery involvement in sports betting and iLottery. They all support the Senate bill.

Whitney Damron, representing Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway, said the tax rate was out of line from what states were doing elsewhere in the Midwest.

“If we do not have a competitive tax rate, we won’t compete well with the state of Missouri when it approves sports wagering, and you will not transition illegal gaming in the state of Kansas into a regulated market,” Damron said.

Other issues to discuss

He added that the discrepancy between the minimum lottery age of 18 and the sports betting age of 21 sets up potential difficulties at lottery retailers.

“The bill you have before you would have the Kansas Lottery be the owner, the operator, the regulator and a competitor on sports wagering,” Damron said. “We do not believe that is an appropriate model.”

Kevin Fowler, a lawyer representing the other three casinos in the state – Boot Hill, Kansas Crossing and Kansas Star – added that they believed the iLottery provisions in the House bill would authorize instant games online that will have the look and play of slot machines.

Racing entities support House bill

There are no horse or greyhound racing tracks left operating in Kansas.

The tracks closed around the time the casinos were authorized in 2008. The tracks also failed to get video gaming terminals in a vote around that time.

Three tracks are prepared to reopen if the state lowered its 40% tax rate on slot machines. The casinos pay a 22% tax on slots.

Jason Watkins, representing Kansans for Fair Play, claimed the state was missing out on 4,000 jobs and $200 million in annual payroll without the tracks. He said the state should be doing everything it can to get them back open, including the carrot of Kansas sports betting.

“At some point, this is going to be fixed and tracks will reopen,” Watkins said. “When they do, we need to be allowed to offer sports wagering.”