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Kansas lawmakers fumble sports gambling agreement just hours after reaching a deal

Sporting Kansas City fans celebrating.
Dylan Lysen
/
Kansas News Service

A final sports betting deal reached Friday struggled to advance in the House and senators left for a break without voting on the bill.

After making headway Friday, Kansas sports gambling legislation abruptly stalled as the House struggled to pass a final agreement and senators left for a break without taking a vote on the plan.

Now, uncertainty surrounds the fate of a sports betting deal forged Friday by House and Senate negotiators.

The day was a whipsaw for the issue. Both chambers had previously passed slightly different sports betting plans, and through meetings on Friday a group was able to smooth out the differences and reach a final agreement.

The progress then slowed when the bill came to the House floor for final approval after midnight. Some lawmakers wanted to send it back for more work, but that failed on a tie vote.

The bill struggled even though legalizing sports gaming has support from both parties. Finally, the agreement narrowly passed the House with the bare minimum of support.

“It’s something that we’ve been wanting for a long time,” Democratic Rep. Louis Ruiz said in support of the bill. “We’ve been kind of falling behind.”

Under the terms of the plan, the Kansas Lottery would outsource sports betting to approved casinos. It also allows for sports bets to be placed in person or online through apps.

The Kansas Lottery estimates taxes on legal sports betting would result in the state collecting up to $10 million a year by 2025.

Republican Rep. Paul Waggoner raised concerns that the deal gave up too much control and revenue to casino companies and didn’t leave enough for the state.

“Once you get this deal, there really is no turning back,” Waggoner said. “We can do better than this.”

Lawmakers could take up the issue again when they return for the final part of the session late this month.

Had the chambers approved the plan, it looked likely the bill would become law. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly signaled earlier in the week that she supports legalizing sports betting in Kansas and is expected to sign an agreement.

“I know so many people who go to Iowa every weekend (to bet on sports),” she said. “I’d like for them to stay here and spend their money in the state of Kansas.”

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.

Stephen Koranda is the news editor for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @Stephen_Koranda or email him at stephenkoranda (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.

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