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Kansas House lawmakers just voted to let you bet on sports in casinos or online

Stephen Koranda
Kansas News Service
Sports betting would join other gambling at places like this casino in Kansas City, Kansas.

Sports gambling would be coming to Kansas casinos and online apps under a bill the Kansas House overwhelmingly approved.

Legalized, state-run sports gambling in Kansas inched closer to reality on Wednesday.

The Kansas House revived a plan to draw tax revenue from sports wagers a day after a bill establishing betting on sports appeared to stall in committee. House leadership used a procedural move to insert the plan into a different bill and debate it among the whole chamber.

Where a committee balked, the larger House gave overwhelming support on an 88-36 vote. The bill now heads to the Senate, which approved a slightly different sports gambling plan last year.

The two chambers would need to agree on a proposal soon to send it to the governor before the session ends.

Under the terms of the bill, the Kansas Lottery would outsource sports betting to approved casinos. It also allows for sports bets to be placed online — with geographic limits that would bar bettors from making wagers from outside the state — or in person.

Backers of the plan said it's time for Kansas to join dozens of other states that have made betting on sports legal ever since the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 struck down a federal law banning sports gambling in most states.

Republican Rep. John Barker said it's time to allow Kansans to bet on the Chiefs, the Jayhawks, NASCAR or the World Cup legally.

Democratic Rep. Tom Sawyer said sports gambling is already happening in Kansas through online betting services.

“It’s time we provide a legal means for people to do it,” Sawyer said. “Let’s move Kansas forward and regulate and tax something we need to regulate.”

But opponents warned of legalizing an addictive behavior. Republican Rep. Trevor Jacobs criticized lawmakers departing from the long-held GOP opposition to gambling.

“We’ve pushed the envelope, ladies and gentlemen,” Jacobs said. “Welcome to the new Republican Party.”

Critics also criticized bringing the bill to the floor for a vote after it failed in committee on Tuesday when fractures opened in an element of the bill — designed to generate more political support — that would let the Kansas Lottery sell tickets online.

But removing the online lottery ticket sales would reduce the state’s projected revenue, so some lawmakers oppose taking it out. They said the sales would bring in roughly $10 million, or more than half of the bill’s total revenue.

Lawmakers couldn’t come to an agreement on that issue, which stalled the bill. However, it was included in the bill that was approved on Wednesday.

Dylan Lysen reports on politics for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanLysen or email him at dlysen (at) kcur (dot) org.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

As a Kansas political reporter, I want to inform our audience about statewide government and elected officials so they can make educated decisions at the ballot box. Sometimes that means I follow developments in the Legislature and explain how lawmakers alter laws and services of the state government. Other times, it means questioning those lawmakers and candidates for office about those changes and what they plan for the future of the state. And most importantly, it includes making sure the voices of everyday Kansans are heard. You can reach me at dlysen@kcur.org, 816-235-8027 or on Twitter, @DylanLysen.
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