Kansas Passes Sports Betting Bill in House of Representatives

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On Wednesday, the Kansas House of Representatives passed its amended online sports betting bill with a final vote of 88-36. The vote by the House was a significant stepping stone toward the full legalization of online sports betting in Kansas. Now, the bill heads to a joint conference committee where the House and Senate must agree on identical versions of the bill.

Kansas’s Lengthy Legislative Effort

The House of Representatives vote stands as a significant achievement in what has been a lengthy legislative process in Kansas. As the Talking Heads put it so eloquently, “you may ask yourself, ‘well, how did I get here?’” Senate Bill 84 and House Bill 2199 were presented in January 2021, and SB84 was passed in the Senate on March 8, 2021.

While the introduction of the two bills was significant, the House rejected a sports betting proposal on March 30, 2021, and the two chambers were not able to make substantial progress ahead of the end of the 2021 Kansas legislative session on May 15, 2021.

Now that the House has approved SB84, the bill will head to the joint conference committee with the House and Senate. On the floor of the House, Representative John Baker put language from HB2470 into SB84, which helped the voters come to a favorable verdict.

Progress Nearly Stalled Out

It looked as though progress might have been set back significantly on Tuesday. Lawmakers briefly debated the possibility of giving control to the Kansas lottery rather than casinos, but that would have been catastrophic for the progress made. SB84 explicitly provides control over the market to the state’s four casinos, with each given up to three licenses for betting skins.

Rep. Francis Awerkamp described that giving control to the lottery would allow the state to have more control over proceeds from the industry. Still, Rep. John Barker rejected the notion saying he couldn’t “think of anyone who’s on board” and that the idea would cause sports betting not to be passed in 2022. The Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission will oversee each casinos’ licensing process.

Terms of Senate Bill 84

While the tax rate is still a point of contention between the House and Senate, the following are the basic terms the two have agreed to:

  • $100,000 annually will be paid to the Problem Gambling and Addiction fund
  • Each of the state’s four casinos will receive licenses for online and retail betting
  • Each of the state’s four casinos will be allowed to partner with up to three online sportsbooks
  • Native American Tribes are permitted to update their gaming compacts to offer sports betting
  • All sports bettors in Kansas must be at least 21 years of age

Motivation to Beat Neighboring Missouri

Last week, I wrote about the Missouri House of Representatives passing sports betting legislation in its House Bill 2502. More so than in any other state, Kansas legislators seem to be motivated to pass sports betting legislation before Missouri can do so. Lawmakers in both states have mentioned how close the other is to legalizing sports betting throughout the legislative process.

“I do not like Missouri. I want to beat them,” Rep. Stephanie Clayton said during a hearing earlier this week. “As a Kansas legislator, I am excited, because it’s my understanding that the Missouri Senate is holding up their sports wagering bill. So if we can get our senators to just get in line with this, I know our governor will sign it as soon as it comes to her.”

What Happens Now?

Bridging the gap between the two proposals on tax rates will be a crucial point of contention in the joint conference committee between the House and Senate. The Senate bill sets sports betting taxes at 8% for online wagers and 5.5% for retail wagers, while the House bill would have taxed each at 20% and 14%, respectively. Once the House and Senate agree, a final bill can be sent to Governor Laura Kelly for approval.

Per Ryan Butler of Wagers.com, the following sportsbooks have a preexisting market access deal in Kansas: Bally Bet, Barstool, BetMGM, Boyd Sports, DraftKings, FanDuel, FOX Bet, PointsBet, and theScore. There seems to be strong momentum for a final bill to be presented to the Governor by the end of the legislative session on May 20, and the beginning of the 2022 NFL season seems like a reasonable goal to have the launch of online sports betting in Kansas.

I've been writing about sports for Lineups since the beginning of 2020 and on my own website since 2018. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. As the United States embarks on an exciting journey towards the legalization of sports betting, I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to cover industry news, NFL and NBA odds, and more.

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