Kansas sports wagering plan hits snag after leadership-backed amendment fails twice

By: - March 29, 2022 12:13 pm

Rep. John Barker adjourned the House Federal and State Affairs Committee after an amendment he offered on behalf of leadership failed to gain traction twice, leaving an unclear future of a plan to legalize sports wagering in Kansas. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The future of a plan to legalize sports wagering in Kansas is up in the air after a House committee abruptly adjourned Tuesday when an amendment proposed on behalf of legislative leadership failed twice.

House Bill 2740 has widespread support from gaming interests that have for years debated who gets to control the wagering action and how to divide the revenue. The measure authorizes sports gambling by allowing the Kansas Lottery to contract with gaming facility managers. 

Managers could offer wagering through websites, mobile applications and on-site. The state would get 20% of revenue through online gambling and 14% from in-person bets. 

The bill looked primed to pass out of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee after a lengthy debate, but when a motion to reconsider a previously rejected amendment proposed by Rep. John Barker on behalf of House leadership came up short, the meeting ended without a resolution.

“I am surprised,” Barker, an Abilene Republican and committee chairman, said. “We are adjourned.”

The amendment would have removed a provision allowing the lottery to sell online tickets. Ultimately, the loss of $11 million in potential revenue in the first year of implementation dissuaded representatives from both sides of the aisle from supporting thr amendment.

Kansas Lottery estimates indicated sports wagering would generate additional revenue for the state of $1.8 million in 2023, $6.0 million in 2024, and $10.0 million in 2025. 

“Sit tight, guys, we’ll get this out this year,” said Rep. Stephanie Clayton, an Overland Park Democrat, in a tweet shortly after adjournment. “Communication and teamwork are key, and sometimes communications break down. We can fix this; I’m sure of it.”

The Kansas Lottery has previously attempted to get iLottery into bills with sports wagering, but casinos have considered it a deal breaker.

It is the second week in a row a meeting on the bill has ended without a vote. The committee can reconvene this week and can consider the bill again, but time is running out for the long-sought measure.

The only opponents to testify during the hearing last week were concerned by restrictions placed on greyhound racing. Animal rights and gambling addiction organizations expressed concerns while asking for their testimony to be considered neutral.

Several other minor amendments did receive committee approval. The other failed amendment would have given the state lottery control instead of casinos, which would likely doom the bill.

Rep. Francis Awerkamp, a St. Marys Republican, said the amendment would mean more money to the state general fund instead of to casinos.

“Right now, we are looking at a new revenue stream, new gambling options, and so you have a choice on who gets the money,” Awerkamp said. “If we let the casinos contract out, we get a small percentage of the money. If we let the Kansas Lottery contract out, we get all of it.”

While many legislators either agreed with the amendment or liked the idea, it failed after Barker reminded the committee it would turn the state’s gaming industry against the bill.

“The casinos are not on board. The other parties are not involved. The retailers are not on board,” Barker said. “I can’t think of anybody that’s on board.”

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Noah Taborda
Noah Taborda

Noah Taborda started his journalism career in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri, covering local government and producing an episode of the podcast Show Me The State while earning his bachelor’s degree in radio broadcasting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Noah then made a short move to Kansas City, Missouri, to work at KCUR as an intern on the talk show Central Standard and then in the newsroom, reporting on daily news and feature stories.