Kansas Senate Committee To Consider Amending Sports Betting Bill

Following two days of testimony, a Kansas senate committee will consider amending SB 84, the bill that would allow for statewide mobile sports betting. Senate Federal and State Affairs heard from proponents on the bill, including multiple sports betting operators, on Wednesday, and opponents and neutral parties on Thursday. At the end of Thursday’s hearing, Chairman Larry Alley said the committee would “work the bill” and consider amendments on Feb. 24.

The bill, which names the Kansas Lottery Corp. as the regulator, would allow for statewide mobile sports betting with online sportsbooks tethered to professional sports franchises and existing casinos. Each gaming facility would be entitled to three mobile skins, meaning each could partner offer up to three mobile platforms online.

Among those who testified, only one was opposed to the bill on moral grounds. Deb Stidham, president of the Kansas Association of Addiction Professionals said in her testimony that should the bill move forward, her group would like it to do so with some protections for problem gamblers, and suggested that 2% of revenue to the state be earmarked to prevent and treat gambling addiction in addition to asking the committee to create “robust and enforceable gaming programs” for problem gambling.

In Kansas, 2% of casino revenue is already earmarked for problem gambling initiatives. It’s likely the committee will add an amendment to the bill to funnel money to problem gambling initiatives.

Convenience stores want in on sports betting

Thomas M. Palace, the executive director of a group of convenience stores and gas stations called True Fuel wrote in written testimony that the group would like to be included in the bill.

“Kansas convenience and grocery retailers are the backbone for games hosted by the Kansas Lottery,” Palace wrote. “There are approximately 1,100 convenience retailers that sell Lottery games that generate millions of dollars to the State of Kansas. We believe that any game offered through the Kansas Lottery should be available to qualified retailers. SB 84 does not allow contracted Lottery retailers to participate in sports wagering and that is why we oppose this bill.”

Palace was not present at the hearing, but Becky Schwartz, associate executive director testified in person, echoing Palace’s testimony.

Jason Watkins of the Ruffin Companies and Kansans for Fair Play, was among those who testified remotely, and he asked that horse racetracks be also be included in the mix. He pointed to previous gaming bills that did include racetracks.

This bill “goes so far as to have an allowance for Indian tribes, and sports wagering at a soccer stadium and a NASCAR track in Wyandotte County, but again excludes the racetracks,” he said.

Others who submitted written testimony included the League of Kansas Municipalities, which testified as neutral and asked that some revenue from sports betting be earmarked for local governments; Russell Brien on behalf of the Prairie Band of Potawatomi Nation, who testified as neutral but stated its interest in recompacting with the state and being able to offer sports betting at its casino; and Terry Humphrey on behalf of the Humane Society of the United States and Stray Dog Policy, who testified that his group supports SB 84 with a minor tweak to completely ban betting on greyhound racing.

The Kansas legislature is in session until May 15.

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