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Kansas passes sports betting bill that directs most taxes to attract pro teams, including NFL's Chiefs


Kansas lawmakers gave final approval on early Friday to a sports betting bill after the Republican-controlled Senate voted 21-13 to pass, reports Associated Press. The Republican-controlled House had previously passed the measure Thursday, 73-49, meaning the legislation will now go to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s desk, who is expected to sign it.

The bill calls for using taxes from sports betting to attract the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs from Missouri to the Kansas side of the metropolitan area. The measure puts a 10% tax on each bet, with nearly all revenue going to a fund that aims to lure pro sports teams to come to the Sunflower State.

Lawmakers have finally managed to pass sports gaming in the state after years of failed attempts. The legislation allows both mobile -each casino could operate up to three online platforms- and retail betting at casinos, or up to 50 other locations chosen by each casino.

State-owned casinos in Dodge City, Pittsburg, Mulvane and Kansas City, Kansas, which are established under the control of the Kansas Lottery, would be permitted to operate sportsbooks, while tribal casinos would be able to negotiate with state officials to enter the market.

The bill could potentially lead to about $5 million a year in revenue for the state under a 10% tax regime on each bet, with 80% earmarked for a Kansas Department of Commerce fund to provide incentives for pro sports teams to come to Kansas.

While the list of teams could include MLB’s Kansas City Royals or pro basketball or hockey franchises, bill supporters believe the fund could possibly get the Chiefs to cross the river. A potential new home for the NFL team would be Legends, a shopping and entertainment district in Kansas City, Kansas, that is home to a NASCAR track, pro soccer club Sporting KC, and a casino.

Thus, the state’s tax revenue from sports wagering could go to building a new stadium for the team. But some lawmakers believe the bill could further open other opportunities: Sen. Rob Olson, a Republican from Olathe, defended the bill and its potential to turn Kansas into a major sporting events destination, reports KSNT.

Olson told the Kansas Capitol Bureau that with major sports teams, then national sporting events could follow. “That would be the kind of destination that would have a Super Bowl, and when you have a Super Bowl, all the money that would be spent in that local area… It would generate a lot,” he said.

While not all legislators seemed on board with the plan, many top Republicans believe the move may put Kansas in a better negotiating position to lure the Chiefs or other teams. The fund proposal follows reports that Chiefs President Mark Donovan said at an NFL owners’ meeting that the team was considering options for a new stadium in Kansas, further reports AP.

But the Chiefs are not the only ones assessing their options. MLB’s Royals are also exploring proposals, including a new stadium in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Both pro teams opened their stadiums on the Missouri side of the Kansas City metropolitan area in the 1970s.

Kansas City Royals

Some lawmakers argued the fund provision was an unnecessary distraction during the debate stage, among them Sen. Jeff Pittman (Leavenworth, Democrat) who believes the money raised would be far too little to attract a new team. “What happens if it’s just a pipe dream? That money is just gonna sit there for five years?,” he had said, according to Associated Press.

While efforts to legalize sports betting in Kansas stalled year after year, most lawmakers felt it was finally the time to regulate a market that already exists – only that currently operating under an illegal scheme. However, others opposed the expansion on moral grounds, fearing gambling addiction could potentially increase as a result of legalization.

Under the now-passed legislation, the state lottery and the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission would share oversight of the new market. Casinos could enter agreements with pro sports franchises to place kiosks at a team’s facility, as part of the 50 total businesses and entities they are allowed to partner with. 

The bill also enables federally recognized Native American tribes to submit a request to the Kansas governor and Kansas Lottery director to operate a sportsbook “under the substantially same terms and conditions” applied to the state’s four casinos, reports Kansas Reflector.

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