Kansas lawmakers will get a crash course in sports gambling this week as they consider how to capitalize on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in May that lifted a federal ban on it.
Seven states offer legal sports betting , and Kansas is among numerous other states considering whether to jump on the bandwagon. The surge in interest comes after New Jerseysuccessfully challenged the federal ban, clearing the way for gambling on games to expand beyond Nevada.
Democratic Gov.-elect Laura Kelly voiced support for expanding into sports betting during her campaign. Kansas already allows commercial casino gaming. The challenge is the details, said state Sen. Bud Estes, a Republican from Dodge City who is the chairman of the committee that will handle bills on the topic.
“I don’t want to skate on thin ice on something we don’t know anything about,” he said, while adding that it is “probably” going to happen in some form. He’s encouraging all lawmakers to show up Tuesday and Wednesday in Topeka for a special interim committee session on the topic.
No legislation has been drafted yet for the upcoming session, which starts Jan. 14.
Key issues include ensuring the tax rate isn’t so high that betters turn to illegal wagers and providing oversight to prevent fraud or cheating in games. Where and how bets can be cast also raises other questions. Will betting be restricted to casinos or allowed at sports bars, too? Are mobile betting apps permitted? If so, who will manage them?
“If we start passing legislation for interest groups, we could make a real mess,” Estes said. “We need to be educated. I’m not going to let my committee go out and pass a lot of legislation right out of the bag. We need to be smarter before we do it.”
During the last legislative session, Republican Rep. Jan Kessinger, of Overland Park, introduced a bill that received a hearing but failed to gain much traction. Budget officials estimated that it would have generated $75 million a year. He plans to try again next year.
“That is not waving a magic wound, boom,” he said of the revenue such a bill would generate. “It would take a while to get up to speed.”
He said the money could allow the state to address several pressing issues, including foster cases , the state pensionsystem and highways. He said some money would be set aside to help problem gamblers.
Kessinger would like to see sports betting available in social settings, such as sports bars and restaurants.
“It will generate more excitement and interest in sports, which I think will drive more traffic into these social settings,” generating jobs and more revenue from taxes of food and drink sales, he said. “There are a lot of different opportunities there.”