Plans were revealed Tuesday by the Kansas House of Representatives to legalize sports wagering in the state through online platforms and bets placed at casinos, convenience stores and racetracks. House Bill 2740 has widespread support from gaming interests that have been disputing its control for years.
The bill authorizes sports gambling by allowing the Kansas Lottery to contract with gaming facility managers. Those managers could offer wagering through websites, interactive mobile applications and on site.
The state would get a 20% revenue through online gambling and 14% from in-person bets. As reported by the Kansas Reflector, Whitney Damron, a lobbyist for Hollywood Casino at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, said revenue estimates suggest the state could receive $50 million in annual revenue.
The Federal and State Affairs Committee heard testimony in support of the bill from three state casinos, a tribal casino, the Sporting Kansas City soccer team and a lobbyist for billionaire Las Vegas casino owner, Phil Ruffin, who has tried to resurrect operations at his now closed Sedgwick County racetrack for years, as the legislation also allows wagering on machines at his facility, but bans machines at greyhound races.
The only opponents to offer testimony were concerned by restrictions placed on greyhound racing. Animal rights and gambling addiction organizations expressed concerns while asking for their testimony to be considered neutral.
Executive director of the National Greyhound Association, Jim Gartland, and Mike O’Neil, representing the Kansas Greyhound Association, submitted written testimony that named Ruffin and raised concerns about his influence on the bill.
Gartland described the situation as “akin to letting a McDonalds franchise owner write the laws on what other fast food companies are allowed to be operated in the state”.
O’Neil added that provisions of the bill dealing with greyhounds are not germane to the subject of sports betting, and asked that lawmakers not make judgements about greyhounds unless they have the opportunity to tour a facility.
Rep. John Barker, and chairman of the Federal and State Affairs Committee, expressed his support for the bill and said the committee would consider amendments and take action on it next week. If the House were to adopt the legislation, representatives would have to work out a deal with senators who passed a competing bill last year.
In 2021, the Kansas Senate approved sports betting but under a proposal that limited live, online and app wagering to four state-owned casinos, which are operated by private companies under contracts with the lottery. The legislation stalled as there was no consensus between the two chambers.