Kansas Sports Betting Bill Hits Snag in House Committee

Kansas Sports Betting Bill Hits Snag in House Committee article feature image

Jeff Haynes/NCAA Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: The Kansas Jayhawks mascot

A potential Kansas full House vote to legalize sports betting was delayed Tuesday after a bill stalled in committee.

After lengthy debate and a failed last-minute amendment that would have likely killed sports betting this year, the Kansas House Committee on Federal and State Affairs adjourned without voting on HB 2740, which would legalize online and retail sports betting.

It’s the second week in a row the committee’s met to discuss the bill, but declined to vote on it. The committee will reconvene Wednesday to take up the bill for a third time, an unusual step for legislation many thought would move quickly to the floor.

Sit tight, guys, we’ll get this out this year. Communication and teamwork are key, and sometimes communications break down. We can fix this; I’m sure of it,” Rep. Stephanie Clayton (D) tweeted shortly after the sudden adjournment.

Online Lottery Tickets Delay Vote

According to Clayton, the committee adjourned because an amendment to remove iLottery authorization from the bill failed twice during the hearing.

Chairman Rep. John Barker (R) said he was asked to include the provision — which would allow the lottery to sell online tickets — but did not articulate why he wants to “return to the status quo.”

He said the amendment was offered on behalf of “leadership.”

The extra revenue from online lottery tickets ultimately proved too great for lawmakers to turn down and the amendment failed.

“This would cost us $11 million that we wouldn’t get,” said Rep. Vic Miller (D).

Sports betting itself is estimated to bring Kansas between $6-10 million annually.

Amendment voting was so narrow Tuesday that three times lawmakers had to go to hand counts after voice votes left it unclear which sides had prevailed.

Control Nearly Kills

Several other minor amendments were advanced, but sports betting avoided a major snag when lawmakers debated, but ultimately did not pass an amendment to give the state lottery control instead of casinos.

Rep. Francis Awerkamp (R), who introduced the amendment, said it was a better deal for the state as it would direct money from sports betting directly to the general fund instead of to the casinos.

"If the casinos contract out, we get a small percentage of the money. If we let the Kansas lottery contract it out, we get all of it," Awerkamp said.

But that would have likely turned the state’s gaming industry against the bill said Barker.

“If the amendment gets passed, we will not have sports betting,” Barker said. “The casinos are not on board. The retailers are not on board. I can’t think of anyone who’s on board.”

The current version allows each of the state's four casinos to partner with up to three online sportsbooks to offer betting on professional and collegiate events. Kanas' Native American Tribes, which operate six more casinos, would be allowed to amend their gaming compacts to offer sports betting as well.

The Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission would be charged with oversight.

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May 20th the End Date

The Kansas House and Senate must pass an identical sports betting bill the last day of the 2022 session, May 20, or try again next year.

Lawmakers frequently brought up neighboring Missouri, which is on the heels of passing its own legal sports betting bill.

"I don't like Missouri. I want to beat them," Clayton said.

Last year, the Senate passed a bill to legalize, but differences over control ultimately killed it in the House. The Senate bill would have given control to the state’s four casinos, while the House’s substitute would have added racetracks and the lottery to participate.

House lawmakers are still working through the current bill to resolve control issues, which are likely to come up again in a potential Senate debate.

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