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Kansas Senate passes betting bill; House considering different legislation

Kansas Senate passes betting bill; House considering different legislation

Following hours of debate and discussion, the Kansas Senate moved to legalize sports wagering despite concerns the bill is very generous toward state casinos.

A House bill still under consideration would give the state a larger cut and let hundreds of lottery outlets take simple sports bets.

Though lawmakers have been working on legislation even before the May 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision which opened the door to sports betting to spread across the nation, pressure to pass a law heightened after the Kansas City Chiefs (who are located in just across state lines in Missouri) won the Super Bowl. Many Kansans placed wagers on the team out of state or through off-shore outlets. Kansas lawmakers want that money to stay in the state.

On Feb. 26, the Senate voted 23-15 for a bill that would allow people to place bets at four state-owned casinos that are managed by private companies through the Kansas Lottery. Bets would be accepted through computer or cellphone apps.

According to the plan, operators would pay a 7.5 percent on revenue from retail wagers and 10 percent from online bets. The bill also would designate 2 percent toward addiction assistance and counseling; 54,000 residents in Kansas have gambling problems.

“It certainly put us in a position where we can establish sports gaming in Kansas and pull, hopefully pull, wagers from a black market, off-shore, unregulated, untaxed market and bring it into Kansas under a regulated, safe market,” said Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine, who led supporters during a four-hour debate.

Senate Democrats were critical of the bill because it didn’t require separate betting contracts with the lottery, letting casinos decide the app providers.

“This bill is of the casinos, by the casinos and for the casinos,” Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley D-Topeka said, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

The bill is expected to bring only about $3 million in tax revenues annually to state coffers with 95 percent going back to bettors as winnings.

Democratic Sen. Tom Holland raised concerns that the years of work lawmakers did on the betting plan lacked “critical thinking,” the Capital-Journal reported. He is raising questions on how much money the state is leaving on the table.

“We own this,” Holland said. “We own the success. We own the failure. And my point to the body is, if we’re going to get into this business, it needs to be financially worth it for the state.”

The House plans to begin hearings on its sports betting legislation this month.

Committee chairman John Barker said the plan to include betting at lottery outlets is an effort to “spread (betting) out.”

“You could be able to go down and buy a lottery ticket and bet on the K-State-KU game, hopefully buy a loaf of bread and 10 gallons of gas or whatever and go home,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

If the House bill passes as is, with lottery outlets being able to offer sports betting, lawmakers will have to go to committee and come up with compromise legislation that will face a vote in both chambers.

James Allen  /  March 2nd 2020

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