Published: March 23, 2022

Kansas House unveils sports gambling plan with support of casinos, opposition by greyhound industry

TOPEKA — The Kansas House unveiled Tuesday a plan for legalizing sports wagering in Kansas through online platforms and bets placed at casinos, convenience stores and racetracks.

House Bill 2740 has widespread support from gaming interests that have squabbled for years over who gets to control the action and how to slice up the revenue.

“I never thought this day would get here,” said Rep. John Barker, an Abilene Republican and chairman of the Federal and State Affairs Committee.

The committee heard testimony in support of the bill from three state casinos, a tribal casino, the Sporting Kanas City soccer team and a lobbyist for billionaire Las Vegas casino owner Phil Ruffin, who for years has tried to resurrect operations at his now-closed Sedgwick County racetrack. The only opponents to offer testimony were concerned by restrictions placed on greyhound racing.

Animal rights and gambling addiction organizations expressed concerns while asking for their testimony to be considered neutral.

The bill authorizes sports gambling by allowing the Kansas Lottery to contract with gaming facility managers. Those managers could offer wagering through websites, interactive mobile applications and on site. The legislation also allows wagering on machines at Ruffin’s facility, but it bans machines at greyhound races.

The state would get 20% of revenue through online gambling and 14% from in-person bets. Whitney Damron, a lobbyist for Hollywood Casino at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas, said revenue estimates suggest the state could receive $50 million in annual revenue. An official fiscal note has not yet been determined for the new House bill.

Jim Gartland, executive director of the National Greyhound Association, and Mike O’Neil, representing the Kansas Greyhound Association, submitted written testimony that named Ruffin and raised concerns about his influence on the bill.

“This is akin to letting a McDonalds franchise owner write the laws on what other fast food companies are allowed to be operated in the state,” Gartland said.

O’Neil said provisions of the bill dealing with greyhounds are not germane to the subject of sports betting.

O’Neil also asked that lawmakers not make judgments about greyhounds unless they have the opportunity to tour a facility.

“Believe me,” O’Neil said, “if there were such a thing as reincarnation, I’d want to come back as a Kansas greyhound. They’re the sweetest athletes you’ll ever meet.”

Barker said the committee would consider amendments and take action on the bill next week. If the House were to adopt the legislation, representatives would have to work out a deal with senators who passed a competing bill last year.

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