Kansas Senate Rejects Sports Betting Report But ‘Everything Is Fine’

Sports betting in Kansas closer to reality

The Kansas Senate rejected a sports betting conference committee report on Wednesday. But it should only be a momentary delay toward final passage of sports betting legislation.

On the veto session’s third day, the Kansas Senate opted not to adopt a conference report for SB 84. But Senate leadership quickly appointed three members to lead a second conference committee.

Rep. Stephanie Clayton and a lobbyist working on the issue tell PlayKansas the conference committee will meet Thursday and make two minor adjustments to the Kansas sports betting bill to set up adoption.

“Theoretically, after the new conference report is drawn up, the House will take this up tomorrow and the Senate soon after,” Clayton said. “So this is not over. My understanding is that everything is fine.”

Changes expected in second conference committee

According to Clayton, a pit stop in the conference committee puts SB 84 back on the path to passage. And neither changes the dynamics for sports wagering in Kansas.

The Senate and House each asked for one change to the bill:

  • For the Senate, remove a section that could lead the state to split the costs of repaying a privilege fee with interest if the historical horse racing facility is found to breach casino contracts.
  • For the House, change the overseer of the Attracting Professional Sports in Kansas Fund to the Department of Commerce rather than the State Finance Council.

The bill includes historical horse racing for a facility around the Wichita Greyhound Park owned by Phil Ruffin. Boyd Gaming opposes the bill because of the inclusion of the HHR facility.

If a casino challenges the HHR facility as a gaming expansion and a court rules it breached the casino’s contract, the casino could seek repayment of its $25 million privilege fee plus interest. In the current bill, Ruffin would front this bill but get repaid 50% by the state out of future earnings. With the change, if a court requires repayment of the privilege fee, Ruffin covers the whole amount.

The change to the Department of Commerce, which currently operates under the administration of a Democratic governor, would ease the opposition of House Democrats that almost doomed the bill.

Sen. Robert Olson will lead the second conference committee, as he did the first. Sens. Mike Petersen and Oletha Faust-Goudeau will join him. Presumably, they will once again be led by Rep. John Barker.

Senate action came as a surprise

On April 1, the Kansas House approved the conference committee report right before the conclusion of the regular session. However, the Senate decided to punt consideration until returning for the veto session this week.

Senate President Ty Masterson said during the break that this was only because the night was late.

“I’m anticipating that when we come back and wrap up, it’s not even going to be that contested of an issue and it will all finish up,” Masterson said on KCMO radio.

Instead, the Senate waited until the third day of the veto session and sent the bill back to conference committee.

But these look like quick and easy changes. However, Clayton warned that you never know what will change between now and tomorrow, as has already been demonstrated this Kansas legislative session.

“Until the conference committee meets, we won’t see what’s in there,” Clayton said. “There’s a lot of things people want, a lot of people flexing muscles and asserting power trying to get stuff in. I wouldn’t say it’s precarious, but it’s still fluid.”