Kansas House Passes Sports Betting Bill in Final Vote; Senate Adjourns

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Kansas House approved the final sports betting bill Saturday after the conference committee reached an agreement.

In a late-night development Friday, the Kansas House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 84 by a 63-49 vote early Saturday hours after lawmakers from both the state House and Senate agreed to the basis of a Kansas sports betting bill.

The Kansas House of Representatives approved SB 84 and sent the measure immediately to the Senate for final consideration. But the upper chamber adjourned at 1:30 am without considering the measure.

The Senate will reconvene on April 25.

The conference committee that pushed the process to the finishing lines comprised six lawmakers – three each from the House and Senate.

The bipartisan committee was called earlier in the week after the House approved its own sports betting bill. The Senate had already passed its own version of SB 84 last year.

While house approval earlier this week was a huge jump to the finishing line, the House version of SB 84 differed from what Senate had passed in 2021.

Busy Friday in Kansas

The House and Senate Federal and State Affairs conference committee met twice on what appeared to be a very busy Friday for the bipartisan committee members who worked out the basis of SB 84. They reached an agreement on the bill, including provisions to restrict greyhound racing, attract new sports teams to come to Kansas, and address problem gambling.

There were a few key disagreements between the House and Senate versions of SB 84 when the lower chamber passed its bill earlier this week. However, a joint conference committee did well to iron out the differences. For instance, Rep. John Barker agreed to remove greyhound racing provisions from the bill. Besides, the bipartisan committee also agreed to allow up to 1,000 historic horse racing machines in Sedgwick County.

The committee also reached a consensus on the tax rate, agreeing to a 10% rate for both retail and online betting in Kansas. The House had previously proposed a higher tax rate, while the upper chamber had stipulated a rate below 10%.

In addition, the committee ironed out another key issue over iLottery, and the House version does not include language allowing the state lottery to sell online lottery tickets. The Senate wished to see that incorporated into the bill.

SB 84 Was Almost Killed Before Final Passage

Though the Kansas House of Representatives approved SB 84 overnight, its passage proved difficult. A late amendment added by the representatives allocated 80% of sports betting tax revenue to a fund created to attract professional sports teams to the Sunflower State. That change in the bill, which had not been publicly discussed before Friday, almost killed the bill’s chances of making it out of the lower chamber.

It led Rep. Henry Helgerson to say that “games like this aren’t supposed to be played at the end.”

A motion by Helgerson urged the conference committee report to fail and called for appointing a new conference committee. But the motion fell short after a vote of 56-56.

Shortly after, a vote of 63-49 cleared SB 84 through the House.

Rep. Stephanie Clayton said they barely made it through. “Now it’s on to the Senate. I may actually drop dead from heart failure, but one more step has been achieved,” she tweeted.

All Eyes on Senate Now

The Senate adjourned around 1:30 am before taking up the bill. But they can take up SB 84 when senators return from a three-week recess.

The bill requires final approval from both chambers before it can be sent to state Gov. Laura Kelly and signed into law. Kelly has expressed her support earlier this week and believed Kansas should have some sort of sports betting. She said that she knows many residents go to Iowa every weekend, adding that she “would like for them to stay here and spend their money in the state of Kansas.”

The veto session starts when the state lawmakers reconvene April 25 where they can decide to override vetoes on measures rejected by the governor.

SB 84 allows Kansas’s four casinos to open retail sportsbooks and operate up to three mobile skins. A casino operator can also request an additional mobile license in partnership with a professional sports organization in Sunflower State.

The state law allows betting on collegiate and professional sports betting teams. Permanent rules and regulations are planned to be finalized by Jan. 1, 2023.

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