Stephen Durrell, executive director of the Kansas Lottery, discusses introduction of legal sports gambling in Kansas with the Kansas Reflector podcast. Online and in-person sports wagering is available at casinos in Mulvane and Kansas City, Kansas, while online bets through apps are being handled at Pittsburg and Dodge City casinos. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Mobile platforms for legal sports gambling in Kansas proved so enticing that more than 16,000 people in Missouri tried to place wagers in the first weekend of live betting.
As those cross-border residents discovered, many of whom were located in the Kansas City, Missouri, the gambling law established by Kansas required a person to be somewhere within the state’s 82,000-square-mile domain to place an online bet. Geofencing technology is in place to create a virtual perimeter blocking out-of-staters from taking part in the state’s legal sports gambling.
“It’s so sophisticated that it knows exactly where you are across the country,” said Stephen Durrell, executive director of the Kansas Lottery. “We had a guy who is located over on State Line Road on the Kansas side and he called and said, ‘I’m having trouble wagering.’ He says, ‘I can only wager if I go to my backyard where I’m away from State Line Road.’ ”
Durrell said early returns indicated sports betting was the most popular introductory gaming option since advent of at the Kansas Lottery. The presumption is a majority of bets in Kansas would be placed online rather than by individuals present in casinos.
“It looks like, you know, wagering is a very healthy venture right now in the state,” Durrell said.
On Sept. 1, Kansas joined a growing list of states trying to get a piece of the sports gambling pie. It took years of political wrangling in the Kansas Legislature, but the state established a framework for sports betting — both through in-person operations and with remote sports betting apps — at the four state-owned casinos in Dodge City, Mulvane, Pittsburg and Kansas City, Kansas. The tribal casinos located within Kansas’ boundary are expected to participate upon completion of new contracts with the state.
The business of sports betting got underway with state-owned casinos joining forces with DraftKings, FanDuel, Ceasars Sportsbook, Barstool Sportsbook, Points Bet and BetMGM.
BetMGM was the first to form a multi-year partnership with the Kansas City Chiefs, expected to be among Kansas’ biggest gambling targets. The bill signed into law by Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, who bet on the Chiefs with the state’s first official wager, required a portion of state revenue to be set aside to help attract a professional sports franchise to Kansas. The idea was to play up the slim chance the franchise would move across the border.
“With a rich history and a passionate fan base, the Kansas City Chiefs are an ideal partner,” said Matt Prevost, BetMGM chief revenue officer.
Durrell said on the Kansas Reflector podcast there was broad interest in Kansas sports betting, but it would take time to bring clarity to financial implications of the reform. The casinos and their partners began by offering an array of financial incentives in a pitch to develop brand loyalty, and those bets must be sorted out to get a better picture of the sports gambling footprint in Kansas.
He said U.S. professional football, baseball, basketball and hockey would draw signifcant betting interest in Kansas along with college football and basketball. There will be an international component to betting, he said, that would involve folks dedicated enough to watch preferred teams in the middle of the night.
“There are other people out there that really want to wager on other things, and they they find it entertaining,” Durrell said.
He said the advent of legal sports gambling in Kansas wouldn’t do away with illicit forms that have existed for years. It ought to make a dent in illegal gaming because a government regulated system offered gamblers greater assurance they would be paid their winnings, he said.
“There’s no reasonable way that illegal gaming is going to go away completely,” the state lottery director said.
Under state law, the four state-owned casinos in Kansas could participate in both in-person sportsbooks and mobile sports betting through a maximum of three apps. Each casino also will be allowed to form partnerships with businesses and nonprofit organizations.
So far, Hollywood Casino at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane offer both in-person and mobile sports betting options. Hollywood Casino affiliated with Barstool Sports, while Kansas Star linked with FanDuel.
Kansas Crossing Casino in Pittsburg decided to offer mobile sports betting with BetMGM, Ceasars and PointsBet. Boot Hill Casino and Resort in Dodge City selected DraftKings for online betting. The Pittsburg and Dodge City casinos are expected to open in-person betting venues in a matter of weeks.
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