TOPEKA, (KSNT)— Kansas lawmakers are negotiating a bill to legalize sports betting in the state, kicking off a round of conference committees on Thursday.
The push to get a bill passed this year is very much alive. Sen. Rob Olson, a Republican from Olathe who chairs the Fed and State conference committee that’s working the bill, said something could get passed before the end of session.
“I think we’re pretty close. There’s a couple areas we got to work on…there’s some grey areas. I believe this is something we’ll get done before this session is over,” Olson told Kansas Capitol Bureau, after their first meeting Thursday morning.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate are looking at different versions of the bill, and are trying to reach a compromise on a final plan. The House passed out their version of the bill Wednesday, which included some amendments to address gambling addiction, and also placed restrictions on greyhound racing. The controversial dog racing sport is legal in Kansas, but there are no active tracks.
According to the House’s plan, slot machines could not be operated at any facility that conducts either live or displays simulcast greyhound races. There are also restrictions on who can obtain a license to participate in that wagering, limiting it to facilities in Sedgwick county.
Some democrats are doubling down on addressing greyhound racing in the state. Rep. Louis Ruiz, D-Kansas City, indicated that the issue is something he’s not willing to let up on.
“The initial way we negotiated this bill in caucus in the House chambers was eliminating the propensity and potential for dog racing, whether it be simulcast, and, of course, we haven’t had live dog racing in years for in the state of Kansas,” Ruiz said. “There was supposed to be some exclusion for Sedgwick County only on pari-mutuel horse races, and now with the inclusion of the greyhound racing…that may throw a cog into the words as far as our party’s concerned. Dog breeders are pushing the Chairman to intersect all betting with dogs, because they’re the ones that make the money off of it. We look at the more humane aspect of it…”
Ruiz said they can “hopefully circumvent” promoting greyhound racing, and that he will not sign an agreement if dog racing is included. Lawmakers, of course, can “agree to disagree.”
Olson said while they may lose some votes from democrats over disagreements on greyhound racing, it shouldn’t be a roadblock in getting something passed.
“I don’t think that will be a determining factor whether it passes or not. I think there’s a pretty good opportunity it’s going to pass with or without it,” Olson said. “It sounds like to me it would be tougher with it in…”
Negotiations over the bill will continue this week. Olson said the committee is working to finalize the bill, and could wrap-up either Friday, or the first day when they come back from a three-week break before veto session.