Saturday, September 24, 2022
Ty Gaston

Kansas Sports Betting Bill Favored By Casinos, But There’s Opposition, Too

The Kansas state House didn’t advance sports betting legislation today, but the chamber could take up the bill next week.

If approved and signed into law, House Bill 2740 (HB 2740) would legalize online and mobile sports betting in Kansas and at the state’s land-based casinos, convenience stores and racetracks. The proposal is supported by the state’s three commercial casinos, a tribal gaming entity and other gaming interests in the state.

There’s also some opposition from the greyhound industry, which perceive HB 2740 as favoring Phil Ruffin and his efforts to rejuvenate the currently shuttered Sedgwick County racetrack. HB 2740 permits sports betting on kiosks at Ruffin’s venue, but prohibits it at other greyhound tracks in Kansas.

In written testimony submitted to the Committee on Federal and State Affairs, Jim Gartland, executive director of the National Greyhound Association, and Mike O’Neil, representing the Kansas Greyhound Association, explicitly identify Ruffin, claiming he’s commanding undue influence over the bill.

This is akin to letting a McDonalds franchise owner write the laws on what other fast food companies are allowed to be operated in the state,” Gartland said.

Ruffin owns Circus Circus and Treasure Island on the Las Vegas Strip and is a partner in the non-gaming Trump Hotel.

How Sports Betting Could Shake Out in Kansas

The commercial casinos in Kansas are Boyd Gaming’s Kansas Star, Penn National Gaming’s Hollywood and the Prairie Band Casino & Resort. The Golden Eagle is a tribal gaming venue.

Officials from Penn National Gaming testified before the Committee on Federal and State Affairs today, noting that their company could bring its Barstool Sportsbook mobile app to Kansas and perhaps a retail location at the Hollywood.

However, they also voiced concern over HB 2740 proposing a 20 percent tax on mobile bets. The Penn lobbyists said 10 percent, which is closer to the national average, should be used in Kansas. The legislation proposes a 14 percent levy on wagers made in person.

Whitney Damron, a lobbyist for Hollywood Casino at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas, estimates regulated sports betting could generate $50 million in annual receipts for the state, reports Sherman Smith for The Kansas Reflector.

Some Allure in Kansas Market

With a population of just 2.91 million and no professional sports teams, Kansas isn’t the type of market that sportsbook operators are dying to get into.

Conversely, advertising costs on local media there are likely cost-efficient and the state could be accretive to gaming companies’ top lines. Plus, the state hosts two NASCAR races per year and is home to the rabid Kansas University basketball fanbase.

For Kansas, allowing sports betting could prevent its residents from going to neighboring  Colorado to place bets and if HB 2740 is expedited, it’s possible Kansas could beat Missouri and Nebraska to the sports betting punch. Oklahoma is the other state bordering Kansas, but near-term passage of regulated sports betting legislation appears unlikely there.

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