Sports wagering bill advances in Senate

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A bill authorizing sports wagering in Kansas moved out of a Senate committee Wednesday after the legislation was tweaked to ban betting on high school sports and greyhound racing.

The Federal and State Affairs Committee signed off on a bill that was supported by gaming interests.

The legislation is similar to what passed in the Senate last year but died after the session came to an abrupt end because of the pandemic.

The bill emerged with amendments banning bets on greyhound racing, prohibiting bets on athletics at the high school level or below while allocating more money for problem gambling.

Republican Sen. Mike Petersen tried to direct sports wagering proceeds to scholarships for studying white-collar crime, problem gambling grants, the Court Appointed Special Advocates program and a community behavioral health clinics program run by the state.

Petersen’s amendment was voted down with some lawmakers fearing the amendment would lock up money the state hasn’t yet received and leave nothing for the state general fund.

“I am uncomfortable taking the additional dollars that we’re going to probably be able to allocate through this new bill and then appropriating them 100% without any input from Ways and Means or House Appropriations,” said Republican state Sen. Brenda Dietrich, alluding to the two budget writing committees.

“Taking a detour at this point makes me uncomfortable,” the Topeka lawmaker said. “Not that these aren’t good programs. I support them 100%, but do we want to put 100% of the dollars into them now in this bill?”

Democratic state Sen. Mary Ware of Wichita questioned the value of committing all the sports wagering money at this point in time.

“We are giving people the opportunity to do something that could very much destroy their lives…and our state general fund isn’t benefiting at all?” she asked.

“These things are locked (up) with no flexibility to potentially add another program,” she said. “There are a lot of moving parts here that don’t seem to fit.”

The committee ultimately agreed with Petersen’s narrower proposal to reduce the share of state taxes – 10% for online bets and 7.5% for in-person bets – by 2 percentage points to go for problem gambling.

The bill authorizes the state’s four casinos to contract with the Kansas Lottery to manage and operate a sports book on behalf of the state.

Each casino may use up to three mobile apps approved by the lottery to conduct sports wagering. The apps could only accepts bets from somone physically in the state.

The bill would allow betting at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas.

It’s been estimated that sports wagering available at state-owned casinos and through mobile apps would generate between $360 million and $600 million a year in gross wagering revenues.

The state is expected to generate between $2.1 million and $3.5 million under the provisions of the bill.