House passes compromise sports gambling legislation; bill’s fate rests with Senate

TOPEKA — The Kansas House approved a compromise bill Thursday creating opportunities for tribal or state-owned casinos to engage in the business of online and in-person sports betting.

The measure would need to be adopted by the Kansas Senate before forwarded to Gov. Laura Kelly, who has expressed support for sports gaming in the past.

“I’ve got guarantees this will run in the Senate,” said Sen. Robert Olson, an Olathe Republican and lead Senate negotiator on the bill.

Rep. John Barker, R-Abilene, said the bill had bipartisan support and was an outgrowth of about five years of effort. The GOP-led chamber voted 73-49 to affirm the agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators.

Opponents questioned the wisdom of growing an industry that contributed to downfall of an estimated 65,000 problem gamblers in Kansas. They argued the 10% state tax on sports gambling generating $1 million to $5 million in annual revenue was an insufficient incentive to legalize the activity. The four state-affiliated casinos could make $9 million to $45 million annually on sports books.

“Those 65,000 gambling addicts in this state, we’re selling them out. That’s like dropping a bomb on those 65,000 families,” said Rep. Pat Proctor, a Leavenworth Republican who said he’d never bought a lottery ticket. “We have created this monster.”

Rep. Tom Burroughs, a Democrat from Kansas City, said the state didn’t have the right to tell Kansans how or where they spent disposable income.

“We have gambling. We have the lottery. It doesn’t have the ill-fated consequence that many of you think it will bring forward,” Burroughs said.

Rep. Tory Awerkamp, R-St. Marys, said the Legislature should shelve the bill because it was crafted by casino companies or lobbyists. It would be better if the Kansas Lottery operated sports betting because the state would collect profits sought by the casinos, he said.

“It’s not something I think we should grow in Kansas, but if we do lets do it in a way that reflects the best interests of the people,” Awerkamp said.

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House passes compromise sports gambling legislation; bill’s fate rests with Senate