TOPEKA — The future of a plan to legalize sports betting in Kansas is up in the air after a House committee abruptly adjourned Tuesday when an amendment proposed on behalf of the legislative leadership twice failed.
House Bill 2740 enjoys broad support from gambling interests who have been debating for years who controls the betting action and how to divide the revenue. The measure authorizes sports betting by allowing the Kansas Lottery to contract with operators of gaming facilities.
Managers could offer betting via websites, mobile apps and on-site. The state would derive 20% of its revenue from online gambling and 14% from in-person betting.
The bill appeared poised to pass the House Federal and State Affairs Committee after a lengthy debate, but when a motion to reconsider a previously defeated amendment proposed by Rep. John Barker on behalf House leadership failed, the meeting ended without a resolution.
“I’m surprised,” said Barker, a Republican from Abilene and chairman of the committee. “We are adjourned.”
The amendment would have removed a provision allowing the lottery to sell tickets online. Ultimately, the loss of $11 million in potential revenue in the first year of implementation deterred representatives on both sides of the aisle from supporting the amendment.
Kansas Lottery estimates indicated that sports betting 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 up guys, we’re gonna get this out this year,” Rep. Stephanie Clayton, a Democrat from Overland Park, said in a tweet shortly after the adjournment. “Communication and teamwork are key, and sometimes communications break down. We can fix this; I’m sure and certain.”
The Kansas Lottery once attempted to introduce iLottery into bills with sports betting, but casinos saw it as a deal breaker.
It is the second week in a row that a meeting on the bill has ended without a vote. The committee can reconvene this week and consider the bill again, but time is running out for the much-sought measure.
The only opponents to testify at last week’s hearing were concerned about restrictions on greyhound racing. Animal rights and gambling addiction organizations have expressed concern while asking that their testimony be considered neutral.
Several other minor changes received committee approval. The other failed amendment would have given control of the state lottery instead of the casinos, which likely would have doomed the bill.
Representative Francis Awerkamp, a Republican from St. Marys, said the amendment would mean more money for the state’s general fund rather than casinos.
“Right now we’re looking at a new revenue stream, new game options, and so you have a choice of who gets the money,” Awerkamp said. “If we let the casinos outsource, we get a small percentage of the money. If we let the Kansas Lottery outsource, we get all of that.
While many lawmakers agreed with the amendment or liked the idea, it fell through after Barker reminded the committee that he would turn the state’s gambling industry against the bill.
“Casinos are not on board. The other parties are not involved. Retailers are not on board,” Barker said. “I can’t think of anyone on board.”