The Kansas Legislature finally will send a sports betting bill to the governor’s desk.
Twice it seemed as though Kansas lawmakers might not get sports betting done this year.
A month ago, the Senate opted not to take up a conference report before adjourning the regular session. Then Wednesday, the Senate rejected the conference report. It’s an unusual step when chamber representatives agree on compromise language.
But, as PlayKansas previously explained, each chamber only wanted two changes that don’t impact the sports betting template.
Yet, even Thursday, the fate of SB 84 seemed precarious. The House adopted the conference report 73-49 in the late afternoon. But the Senate waited until late into the night to take up the report.
After a divisive hour-and-a-half discussion, the Senate President moved on to another conference report before coming back for the vote on sports betting at nearly 2 a.m. It passed 21-13.
“Folks, this is not the first time we’ve seen this,” Rep. John Barker told his colleagues. “Hopefully, the third time’s the charm.”
The next step for the Kansas sports betting bill is the desk of Gov. Laura Kelly. Legislative sources expect the bill to get her approval.
Second conference committee changes
It briefly appeared that the Senate might have ruled against the bill on Wednesday. But the chambers had agreed to convene a second conference committee to make two small changes.
The changes were:
- Change who oversees the Attracting Professional Sports to Kansas Fund from the legislative State Finance Council to the Department of Commerce.
- Remove provisions for the state to repay a facility manager licensee if privilege fees are ordered repaid by a court.
The second change refers to allowing historical horse racing (HHR) around Wichita Greyhound Park owned by Phil Ruffin. There’s concern this could lead to a lawsuit from a casino to reclaim privilege fees paid with the understanding the state would not expand gambling further.
Three of the casinos support the bill:
- Hollywood Casino
- Kansas Crossing Casino
- Boot Hill Casino
So the only entity that might file a lawsuit is Boyd Gaming, which owns and operates Kansas Star Casino. Sen. Robert Olson, Senate chair of the conference committee, said he’s willing to let the Kansas Supreme Court decide if HHR falls under already allowed pari-mutuel wagering or if it breaches the casino contract.
If adding an HHR facility is found to breach a casino contract, Ruffin would now repay the casino’s privilege fees entirely. Previously, the state repaid half of the amount from HHR tax revenue.
Kansas final sports betting details
The Kansas sports betting bill allows online and retail sports betting for the state’s four casinos. Additional details include:
- Allows Kansas casinos to partner with up to three online sports betting platforms.
- A casino may request approval of one additional skin to go through a professional sports team. Sporting KC, a Major League Soccer club, is the only professional team in the state.
- Tax rate of 10% on both retail and online sports bets.
- The Kansas Lottery oversees sports betting regulation. The Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission handles regulations on sports gambling advertisements.
- Allows for betting on professional, college and motorsports, or special events authorized by the commission.
- Sets a minimum age requirement of 21.
- Allows each casino to enter into up to 50 marketing agreements to place sports betting kiosks or interactive lounges at facilities around the state. Professional sports team facilities and the Kansas Speedway specifically get sports betting kiosks. Nonprofit fraternal and veterans organizations must make up 8% of a casino’s marketing agreements.
- Requires the governor to renegotiate new compacts with Native American tribes to include mobile and retail sports betting.
Earmarking revenue for Chiefs stadium not an issue
During the first conference committee, House Speaker Ron Ryckman made a power play to add a provision that wasn’t in either chamber’s version.
Just three days earlier, Kansas City Chiefs President Mark Donovan mentioned the team would consider options to move from Missouri to the Kansas side of Kansas City.
Ryckman requested that 80% of sports wagering revenue go toward a fund to finance the construction of a stadium for a professional sports team.
The last-minute addition almost derailed the bill in the House. Ryckman needed to hold open a vote to reject the conference report until it failed by a single vote.
So there were concerns about how the Senate would react to the provision after nearly a month to let it stew. But it only faced minor blowback in each chamber.
“The notion of the Chief’s stadium plan is, again, pardon my disdain, but it’s literally ridiculous,” said Rep. Paul Waggoner. “You’re literally going to give 80% of a million dollars or $5 million to start a plan for a stadium that literally costs a billion dollars or more.”
Legislative sources indicate that senators weren’t overly concerned knowing that the revenue amounts to maybe $5 million and the fund could easily be swept in the future when Ryckman is out of office.
Olson pointed out that there will be an opportunity to move the money to the general fund if needed.
Waggoner contended that the state should just budget $50 million into a stadium fund if it really wanted to make a serious attempt at getting the Chiefs.
“That would accumulate as much money in one swoop as you’re going to get for the stadium in literally 10 to 15 years of this bill,” Waggoner said. “If the notion of a stadium on the Kansas side for the Kansas City Chiefs has any resonance with you, this bill is not the way to do it.”
David J. Phillip / Associated Press