While the Kansas legislature is likely to pass a sports betting bill when it reconvenes April 25, it is not without a peculiar component.
Before the House advanced SB 84 in the early hours of April 2, a provision was inserted that dedicates 80% of KS sports betting tax revenue to a fund to attract a professional sports team to Kansas. The late addition gave some representatives pause and the sports betting bill was nearly sent back to conference committee, which likely would kill it.
“For me, that was annoying, why did you have to put it in?” Rep. Stephanie Clayton, who voted for the bill, told LSR. “I represent a border district. We’re OK with the Chiefs or Royals coming to the Kansas side to a certain degree, but they don’t want to spend too much. I didn’t like the last-minute addition, do it above board.”
Senate likely to pass Kansas sports betting bill
Following the close call in the House, the Senate ended up adjourning for its three-week veto break before taking up the bill. Senate President Ty Masterson recently told a local radio show the bill will pass.
“The latest version of the bill that came across from the House probably will cross the line,” Masterson told the Pete Mundo Mornings show. “It will see the end of the day. There are those who are fully against it, but I’m anticipating it won’t be that contested of an issue.”
The fund proposal in Kansas largely comes from a recent report that the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs might look at a move from Missouri to Kansas. Masterson said the fund component was a last-minute curveball, but that Kansas would love to see the Chiefs change states.
Kansas sports betting money could go to general fund
Clayton said the up to $10 million the state might make annually from sports betting is not much to the overall budget. But it is also not pocket change, especially if a team does not end up coming to Kansas.
If that is the case, she said the funds can be swept into the general fund.
“It’s a small amount of revenue, but there are provisions in place with legislators I trust implicitly that they’ll do the right thing,” Clayton said. “I don’t see it as that high of a risk. If that makes us more attractive to a sports team in the future, I see it as low-risk, high reward.”
Sports betting attraction fund ‘terrible governance’
Throughout the legislative session in both Kansas and Missouri, legislators have attacked the other state as they race to potentially legalize sports betting. There is a long history of incentives used to attract companies from over the border, which College of the Holy Cross Economics Professor Victor Matheson said is “wildly stupid and destructive.”
The companies then take advantage of the states, switching back and forth. While the sports betting tax revenue will be new, it could be better used elsewhere, Matheson said.
“It’s tempting to say it’s new revenue and it’s sports related, but that doesn’t make a difference,” Matheson said. “No one is going to bet more on the Chiefs and Royals because they’re on this side or the other. It’s not like you can’t go to the games on either side.
“What you’re doing is taking a good new revenue source that could pay for things across the Red-Blue spectrum.”
Different than Buffalo situation
Matheson often works to temper economic impact expectations that come with public funding proposals for sports stadiums and events. He said the Kansas fund is a bit different than the recent plan for a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills in New York.
Without a new stadium in Buffalo, there could be a credible threat the team will actually move away from New York, Matheson said. In Kansas, moving a stadium “10 miles down I-70,” however, does nothing extra for the local fanbase.
Missouri, Kansas border war truce not applicable to Chiefs
In 2019, both Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed bills restricting tax breaks and incentives to lure companies from the other state. Those bills, however, did not include the Chiefs, according to Kelly.
“You know, I would be all for it, obviously. When I signed the border war truce with Missouri, it didn’t include the Chiefs,” Kelly told local reporters at a recent event.
While Kansas lawmakers appear excited about the potential to draw the Chiefs over the border, a recent committee hearing in Missouri, however, disputes the recent report.
Missouri wants to keep Chiefs
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas tweeted his support of retaining the Chiefs in Missouri.
“Kansas City has proudly hosted the Chiefs since the early 1960s,” Lucas tweeted. “We look forward to working with the Chiefs, our state of Missouri partners, and local officials to ensure the Chiefs remain home in Kansas City and Missouri for generations to come.”
Parson also recently told local media he would not let the team move without a fight.
Kansas sports betting bill details
Kansas lawmakers finalized a sports betting deal April 1, helping set the stage for the two chambers to potentially pass it before adjourning for the veto break.
The deal legalizes retail sports betting at four Kansas casinos and gives them each three online skins. The casinos can also partner with up to 50 retailers and professional sports venues to offer kiosks. A casino can also request an additional online skin to partner with a professional team.
Kansas will levy a 10% flat tax rate on sports betting revenue.