Kansas Sports Betting Bill Introduced in the Senate

Kansas lawmakers will again consider legalizing sports betting after bill SB 84 was filed Tuesday in the Senate seeking statewide mobile sports betting.

SB 84, sponsored by the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, allows up to 12 online sports betting options through the Sunflower State’s four commercial casinos. Each of the casinos is to open a retail sportsbook at its facility and can partner with up to three digital providers. It would the third consecutive session, witnessing Kansas lawmakers trying to regulate the lucrative market. The state’s Native American tribes will also be able to renegotiate their gaming compacts with the government to extend sports betting as well.

Details of the Bill

The latest proposal, SB 84, is a comprehensive bill that puts the Kansas Lottery Corporation as the principal regulator, besides tasking the state racing commission with partial regulatory duties, including advertising and self-exclusion. The bill allows for land-based sports betting facilities from casinos to horse racetracks and professional sports entities to pair with “gaming facility managers” who must be approved by the lottery to provide mobile betting. The Kansas Speedway in Kansas City can also open a designated sports wagering area for digital betting but would not be authorized to take in-person bets.

SB 84 is a mirror image of the 2020 Senate bill, which passed out of the legislature but never had a hearing in the House. The bill calls for a 7.5% tax on revenue through in-person bets and 10% on online and mobile bets. It also allows for betting on all college and professional sports. However, the proposed measure does not require the use of official league data or any sort of payout to the pro leagues.

Anyone who is 21 or above can place legal wagers. There is no mention of in-person sign-up, meaning eligible individuals could register, deposit, and place bets from anywhere in the state. However, no initial or annual licensing fees are particularly mentioned in the original bill.

First Sports Betting Bill in 2021

SB 84 is the first 2021 sports betting bill introduced in Kansas, following multiple failed bids to legalize sports wagering in the state. A 2020 bill was on the verge of getting through but was derailed at the eleventh hour before being discarded as lawmakers had to deal with economic issues shaped by the coronavirus.

The Kansas Lottery, which operates the Sunflower State’s four casinos, has been proposed as a key regulator under the 2021 bill. Though a handful of lawmakers suggested Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission be assigned the regulatory role, it remains to be seen whether or not the supporters bring a follow-up bill in 2021. Oversight divisions are the key issues lawmakers will have to iron out as the bill begins the lengthy legislative process, including tax rate and licensing criteria.

As usual, the lawmakers would have to promulgate and finalize follow-up regulations before wagering begins. The law requires regulators to finalize the process on or before October 31, 2021.

More Palatable Bill

The Midwest has been slower than the rest of the US in terms of regulating sports betting. Almost half of the US states have so far legalized sports betting since PASPA was struck down in May 2018. But Kansas borders only one state, Colorado, with statewide live digital wagering. In November 2020, Nebraska voters approved a gaming expansion, pushing Kansas lawmakers to finalize details for regulated sports betting in their state.

The latest bill ought to be more palatable to lawmakers than the House bill they tore last year. The bill included an official league data mandate, a 20% tax rate, with the lottery as the key regulator. The committee is expected to discuss the proposal as early as next month. If it passes the initial committee, SB 84 will go through further committees before returning to Senate for the floor-wide vote. If the Senate passes the bill, the House will also have to agree to the same, after which it will be sent to Gov. Laura Kelly for signing it into law.

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