Kansas legalizes betting on sports; start date uncertain

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Legal sports betting is coming to Kansas, but state officials and others aren’t sure how quickly sports fans will be able to start making their wagers, though one operator hopes it will be by the time the NFL season starts.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly on Thursday signed a bill that the Republican-controlled Legislature passed with bipartisan support. Her action came four years after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 struck down a federal ban on sports betting in most states.

The new law dedicates most of the the state’s share of revenues from the new gambling — perhaps $5 million a year — to efforts to lure the Kansas City Chiefs from Missouri to Kansas. While many legislators see that as unlikely, they still were willing to set aside the funds in the short-term.

The new law will allow people in the state to use cellphone or computer apps to bet on sporting events and to place bets at each of four state-owned casinos or up to 50 other locations chosen by each casino.

Penn National Gaming, which operates the state-owned Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas, plans to build a retail sportsbook in the Kansas City-area casino. The Pennsylvania-based company also aims to launch mobile sports betting for people in Kansas. Spokesman Jeff Morris said that he hopes that people in Kansas would be able to begin legally betting by the National Football League season.

“Our intention will be to launch the first day we are able to do so in the state,” Morris said.

But Todd Allen, the Racing and Gaming Commission’s government relations manager, said he can’t guarantee whether people in Kansas would be able to place traditional sports wagers by the 2022 NFL season.

The Kansas Lottery, which owns the rights to casino gambling, and the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, which regulates it, must work out issues such as how to verify that bettors are at least 21 and physically in Kansas, as well as how to verify players’ credit card information, lottery spokesman Cory Thone said.

Twenty-nine have authorized commercial sports betting, while another six allow Native American tribes to provide it, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Kansas allows betting through fantasy sports leagues, operates a state lottery and allows private companies to operate four casinos under contracts with the lottery. Efforts to authorize sports wagering have stalled in the past over state-owned casinos’ control and whether to allow other new forms of gambling.

Avid sports fans had eagerly awaited Kelly’s signing of the bill.

Joseph Bryden, a 25-year-old University of Kansas law student, said he listens to an out-of-state podcast with hosts who often discuss sports betting.

“And it’s like I’m just sitting here in Kansas and I get to listen to them have all this fun,” Bryden said.

Kansas clarified in 2015 that it is legal to place bets in fantasy sports contests, games that allow players to assemble a roster of athletes in a sport, using individual performance statistics to determine the winner. Bryden already uses a mobile sports betting app run by a fantasy sports company but said he looks forward to betting on the outcome of games.

“It’s my money. If I want to be able to bet on the (Dallas) Cowboys, I feel like I should be able to,” Bryden said.

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Andy Tsubasa Field is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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On Twitter, follow Andy Tsubasa Field at https://twitter.com/AndyTsubasaF and John Hanna at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna





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