Kansas House Tells Senate Sports Betting Bill No Thanks

Posted on March 17, 2020 - Last Updated on June 23, 2020

Kansas House legislators aim to pass their version of sports betting, instead of legislation passed by the Senate.

On Feb. 26, the Kansas Senate moved to legalize sports betting. However, the House State and Local Affairs Committee only focused on HB 2671 and ended up dropping the Senate bill from its sports betting hearings.

Rep. John Barker, who is chair of the committee, explained:

“The Senate now has a position that they’ve passed. The House needs to have a position so that when we go to conference, we can negotiate with the Senate.”

Comparing and contrasting the two Kansas sports betting bills

The House bill 2671 and the Senate bill S 283 both dictate three key points: who will be the regulated sports betting operators, different tax rates for in-person wagers versus mobile app wagers, and online lottery tickets.

However, the only true similarity is that both bills allow for the sale of online lottery tickets.

Some key differences between the two bills are as follows:

  • Operators: The Senate bill grants the four state casinos exclusivity unless only one chooses to allow sports betting. The House bill grants the Kansas lottery the ability to offer sports betting. This means that there could theoretically be up to 1,200 retailers. Moreover, racetracks can also take part in this bill.
  • Tax rates: The Senate bill states a tiered tax rate of 5.5% for in-person wagers versus 14% for the House bill. Additionally, the Senate bill will tax mobile app wagers at 8% versus the House bill’s 20% rate.
  • Online lottery tickets: Both bills allow for online lottery ticket sales as long as the lottery game does not resemble or operate like a slot machine. However, the Senate bill only allows for the redemption of online lottery tickets within a physical lottery retailer.

Casinos support Senate’s version of sports betting bill

Casinos support the Senate’s bill for sports betting, due to the lower tax rates for in-person and mobile app betting.

However, the Senate bill still faced plenty of opposition during their debate.

According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, the state projects $600 million in sports wagers in the first year, but the Sunflower State would only net $3 million. Sen. Tom Holland fears that this bill is “leaving money on the table.”

On the other hand, casinos argue that the House bill’s tax rate is detrimental because it isn’t competitive enough compared to other states.

A representative from Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway, Whitney Damron stated:

“If we do not have a competitive tax rate, we won’t compete well with the state of Missouri when it approves sports wagering, and you will not transition illegal gaming in the state of Kansas into a regulated market.”

What about racing?

Currently, no racing facilities operate in the state. Horse and greyhound tracks closed in 2008. Moreover, tracks did not have any video gaming or slots.

The House Federal and State Affairs Committee decided to look at a compromise.  Lottery retailers would have a foot in the proverbial door, plus horse and dog racing would reopen again.

According to Jason Watkins, who represents Kansans for Fair Play, the state is currently losing out on 4,000 jobs and $200 million with no racing.

“At some point, this is going to be fixed and tracks will reopen. When they do, we need to be allowed to offer sports wagering.”

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