Kansas Wins Sports-Betting Legalization Race Against Missouri

May 2, 2022
In the race between neighboring states to pass legislation permitting sports betting, Kansas has crossed the finish line first ahead of Missouri with a bill now heading to the governor’s desk.


In the race between neighboring states to pass legislation permitting sports betting, Kansas has crossed the finish line first ahead of Missouri with a bill now heading to the governor’s desk.

Both chambers of the Kansas Legislature approved an amended version of Senate Bill 84 in the early hours of Friday morning (April 29), with the measure first clearing the House, then later, the Senate.

Much of the bill remains the same from a similar effort in early April, when the House approved the bill in another late-night session, but the Senate abruptly adjourned without voting on it, reportedly due in part to concerns about a late-added provision that would direct 80 percent of state revenues from sports betting to a new fund designed to help attract professional sports teams to Kansas.

That provision remained in the bill that was approved last week, although control over the fund was moved to the state’s Commerce Department rather than the State Finance Council, one of the two changes made to SB 84 in a conference committee Thursday morning prior to passage.

The second change is the removal of a provision related to historical horseracing, which would also be permitted at a new facility near the former Wichita Greyhound Park owned by Phil Ruffin, owner of the Treasure Island and Circus Circus casinos in Las Vegas.

The removed provision would have seen the state share costs with Ruffin if a casino in the same gaming zone were to challenge that the historical horseracing facility violates its casino management contract as a further expansion of gaming.

Without the provision, Ruffin would fully cover the costs of refunding the casino privilege fee in the event of such a legal challenge.

On the sports-betting side, the bill allows each of the state’s four casinos to operate land-based and mobile sports betting under the regulation of the Kansas Lottery, with each casino receiving up to three online skins.

Each casino can also reach up to 50 “marketing agreements” with partners to install kiosks at retail locations throughout the state, although at least 20 percent of the agreements must be with fraternal or veterans’ organizations.

The state would also be required to negotiate amended gaming compacts with Kansas' federally recognized Indian tribes to allow tribes to offer sports wagering as well under “the substantially same terms” as casinos.

Sports betting would be taxed at 10 percent of gross sports betting revenues.

Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, is expected to sign the bill.

Kansas’s action came just hours after legislation in neighboring Missouri hit a significant snag in the form of a Senate filibuster protesting the lack of inclusion of video lottery terminals (VLTs) in the sports betting bills as they were being brought up for a final vote on the Senate floor.

Legislators in both states have voiced a desire to not only beat their neighbor to the launch of sports betting, but also to do so under more favorable terms than the other state in order to help gaming facilities on or near state borders to remain competitive.

Missouri legislators have until a scheduled May 13 adjournment to reach a compromise and enact their own legislation, but the dispute over VLTs and combining them with sports betting has been the thorn that has killed legislation in the state several times in recent years.

“I never say never,” Republican Senator Denny Hoskins, who filed a separate bill to legalize VLTs this year, told KCMO Radio on Friday when asked if a sports betting bill will pass this session.

“Hopefully, casinos will come to their senses,” Hoskins said. “Casinos stand to make hundreds of millions of dollars on sports [betting] if it’s legalized in the state of Missouri. I was willing to compromise and come down from the 21 percent tax to a 10 percent tax rate, but casinos want the golden ticket.”

Hoskins called out casino operators for not wanting small businesses, fraternal or veterans’ organizations to make any money from gaming.

“Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail, and they will come to their senses, and we can get something passed in these next two weeks,” he added.

A coalition of supporters that included many of the state’s casinos and professional sports teams sought a vote on sports betting legislation without VLTs in this session.

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