Opinion: Welcome To Kansas, The New Las Vegas Of Sports Betting

Written By John Holden on May 20, 2022
Kansas sports betting

Dorothy might have left Kansas on her trip to Oz, but if she enjoys sports betting, she is going to want to get back soon.

In 1918, a survey crew determined that Lebanon, Kan., is the geographic center of the contiguous United States. So if you have not been, the time to visit Kansas is coming.

Things are about to get even more interesting, as Kansas’s legalization of sports betting is fortuitously timed. In an era where more than 30 states have legalized sports betting, it is weird to see regulated sports betting deserts, but there is a mobile betting desert surrounding Kansas on three sides.

Following the signature of Governor Laura Kelly, Kansans will be allowed to bet online (as well as at the state’s four commercial casinos and tribal properties that renegotiate or negotiate new compacts) sometime in the relatively near future.

What this means for the Plains?

There is actually potential that Kansas revenue projections have come in on the low end. Given the lack of access to regulated sports betting in surrounding states, the gas stations, strip malls, and truck stops could become Kansas’s very own Las Vegas Boulevard. Only instead of glitzy hotels and showgirls, there are people in cars on cell phones throwing back chili dogs.

Personally, I’ll be betting from N & J Cafe and Bakery parking lot in Wichita after enjoying phenomenal Mediterranean food.

Kansas legalizes sports betting

Kelly signed SB 84 allowing sports betting in the Sunflower State, and we also got some insight on potential launch dates. Regulators told LSR that a fall launch is a possibility, though that would be a fast timeline.

The details of the KS sports betting law appear pretty good for operators. Those hoping to get into the market will need a Kansas-based partner but will have a very manageable 10% tax rate.

Bettors will need to be 21 years old. Getting into the market means partnering with a casino, but the bill allows for kiosks in professional sports facilities, as well as 50 partnerships with Kansas businesses, of which 10 must be non-profits.

What is Kansas going to do with that cash?

Firstly, Kansas has incredibly reasonable projections for tax revenue from sports betting, estimating that legalization will bring in between $1 and $5 million, a far cry from the gold-plated fire hydrant projections coming from most states.

The Kansas Reflector also details that books are projected to do between $9 and $45 million in revenue.

While Kansas has modest revenue projections, the plan is to devote 80% of the revenue to bringing a professional sports team to Kansas.

Oh, the opportunities for sports betting in Kansas

While legal mobile betting is likely going to be welcomed by Kansans, it might actually be as big of a hit with bettors in neighboring states.

Both Missouri and Oklahoma failed to make any significant movement legalizing sports betting this year, again. Nebraska to the north legalized in-person wagering. But not allowing for mobile betting meaning that for large segments of the population, it might be more convenient to just head down Highway 77 to the other side of the state line — that is, if they ever launch in-person betting.

While Kansas has a population of just about 3 million, Oklahoma has closer to 4 million people, Missouri has more than 6 million, and Nebraska has a population of just under 2 million.

Who else is coming to Kansas?

The Kansas market could become quite popular for bettors in neighboring states.

Everyone knows Kansas City‘s proximity from Missouri, it is in the name, Tulsa is also under an hour from the Kansas border.

It is quite possible that gas stations and truck stops all along the Kansas border could experience New York’s George Washington Bridge experience of bettors making a short turnaround trip to place a few bets, then go home.

Any hope at home?

Bettors in Nebraska, Missouri, and Oklahoma would undoubtedly prefer to stay home and bet legally from the comfort of their own couches, but those plans appear to be distant dreams at the moment.

For what feels like the fourth year in a row, Missouri had way too many cooks in the kitchen to get a deal done. In the end, a deal was reached in the House, but three proposals all proved unworkable in the Senate.

Back in January and February, Oklahomans were excited about the prospect of sports betting in the Sooner State, despite some incredibly rainbow-and-unicorn level of economic impact projections. Legislation had a vocal champion in Ponca City (just south of the Kansas border) representative Ken Luttrell. But the bill died with very little attention.

As for Nebraska, we are coming up on a year since Governor Pete Ricketts signed a law allowing betting at the state’s racetracks and racinos, as well as on tribal lands located within the state. While the state promised to revisit mobile betting in the future, it seems unlikely that we see any movement there for some time.

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John Holden

John Holden J.D. / Ph.D. is an academic. His research focuses on policy issues surrounding sports corruption.

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