Kansas Sports Betting Law Signed By Governor, Now Headed To Court

Photo by Kansas eyes luring Chiefs via sports betting tax revenue (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed sports betting legislation on Thursday, but it faces an uncertain legal future.

The Praire State became the 36th state to approve sports betting since the Supreme Court in 2018 struck down the federal law prohibiting the activity. 

“Legalizing sports betting will bring more revenue to our state and grow our economy,” Kelly said in a statement, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal

“This is another mechanism that casinos, restaurants, and other entertainment venues can now utilize to attract Kansans to their establishments.”

Casino Sues State Over Separate Part Of Law

Almost immediately after the bill was signed, the Kansas Star Casino, located near Wichita, sued the state claiming the law violates a contract between the two that goes through 2026, the Associated Press reported.

At issue are the so-called historic horse racing machines. 

The law allows the Wichita Greyhound Park to operate the machines, which the casino argues are “indistinguishable” from the machines it operates. The casino is owned by Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming.  The contract with the state specifies the casino has exclusive rights to slot machines within a close parameter of the city of Wichita. 

“Boyd has lived up to its obligations, successfully operated the Kansas Star and invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Kansas Star based on the State’s contractual promise,” the company said in a statement, provided to the AP.

The company made clear to the AP it supports sports betting. Its issue revolves around the matter of the gaming machines. 

State Rep. John Barker, a Republican who shepherded the bill through the legislature, told the AP he expects the Kansas Supreme Court to make the final decision, but he hopes sports betting would not get tangled in the issue.

“It’s a separate part of that bill, so I would think maybe the sports betting could go forward,” he said.

Sports Betting Law Has Eyes On Kansas City Chiefs Relocation

A key component of the new Kansas law is a provision aimed at relocating the Kansas City Chiefs from neighboring Missouri.

The law creates the Attracting Professional Sports to Kansas Fund. In a last-minute revision to the bill, 80% of the tax revenue raised from sports betting would go toward a fund aimed at attracting a professional team to the state.  

While not specifically mentioned, the Super Bowl-winning Chiefs are the target because their contract in Missouri is due to expire soon.

When Will Sports Betting Be Operational In Kansas

Now that the law is signed, the clock is on for when bets will be legal in Kansas.

Supporters hope sports betting will be live in time for the NFL season opener on Sept. 8. The lawsuit notwithstanding, it may be a challenge for all the rules and regulations to be ironed out. 

Experts have cautioned sports fans not to get hopes up that they’ll be able to wager legally any time soon. The law does, however, stipulate that sports betting must be operational by Jan. 1, 2023, which could be just in time for the Chiefs’ next run to the Super Bowl.

About the Author
Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is a writer and contributor for Gaming Today with a focus on legislation and political content. Mary is an award-winning journalist who co-authored "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Government." She has spent more than 20 years covering government, both at the state and federal level. As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and the Providence College Friars she feels cursed. Luckily she is a hockey mom too so her spirits aren't totally shot.

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