Differences of opinion over reopening sports betting discussion in Kansas

December 1, 2022 Kansas State Flag - Casino Genie

Among the flow of states that have begun permitting online betting in 2022, Kansas was one of the most surprising adopters, and has turned out to be one of the most enthusiastic. There have been a lot of bets placed in the state since betting was adopted at the end of the summer, and their liberalized gambling laws have turned out to be a significant success from a customer uptake point of view. Recently, however, state Governor Laura Kelly has stated her openness to looking at the law again to potentially make changes that could reduce what she has described as “unintended consequences”.

Kelly’s misgivings over the betting legislation currently in force in the Sunflower State seem to relate specifically to one part of the bill that passed Congress in May, and which was later signed into law by herself. That aspect is the existence of a fund which pulls money from betting revenues to improve the prospect of attracting sporting teams into the state, or bidding for future franchises. According to the Governor, this element of the legislation could be reconsidered, and she may be minded to support the exclusion of such a fund by amendment.

According to Kelly, this has been a live topic of conversations between her and members of Congress in the state, not least given the sluggish performance of betting revenues compared to what was expected when the bill was presented to lawmakers earlier in the year. The hopes were that the fund would accumulate as much as $10million by 2025, but two months of betting, and $350 million in wagers placed, have seen just $270,000 in revenue for the state so far. While some of the underperformance can be attributed to initial promotional offers which will not be a permanent fixture at sportsbooks, there is still limited hope that betting revenues will leap to the planned levels when those offers cease.

Kelly’s potential intervention would be directed at bringing more money from betting revenues into other, potentially more productive uses. But it would not be met with unreserved enthusiasm by state lawmakers, some of whom have indicated that they would block any attempt to reopen the legislation to address the fund. Others have indicated that they are open to any such conversation, while another cohort have stated that there could be room for manoeuvre on the fund, but that it should be addressed in the coming years rather than weeks or months.

The present controversy seems to have been awakened by a recent New York Times investigation that looked into the role played by lobbying in the adoption of betting legislation across the USA. The initial article in the investigation focused on Kansas and the part played by landowners who would be in position to profit if the state were to welcome a pro sports team such as the Kansas City Chiefs, who would require a stadium to be built on said land.

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