Wichita State hasn’t played a college football game in more than 35 years — unless you count the program’s faux return in the first season of the Apple TV series Ted Lasso.
But on Thursday, Wichita got back into the football business — at least tangentially.
And business is booming.
Less than 20 miles from the Wichita State campus, the Kansas Star Casino held the grand opening of the retail location for FanDuel Sportsbook Kansas on Thursday morning.
The ceremony, attended by officials from FanDuel, Boyd Gaming, the Kansas Lottery and the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, kicked off the official opening day of Kansas sports betting. The state began taking bets at noon Sept. 1 in what was termed a soft launch.
“This is our seventh state partnership with FanDuel, and nowhere has there been such excitement as Kansas,” said Keith Henson, the senior vice president of operations for Boyd Gaming. “It could not have been done without the support of the local agencies and FanDuel.”
Former Kansas State Wildcat and Green Bay Packer receiver Jordy Nelson placed the ceremonial first bet, putting $20 on his alma mater to win the Big 12 football championship.
Bettors who want to place wagers on Kansas State or the Kansas City Chiefs can come to BetKansas.com for all the Kansas sportsbook promotions.
FanDuel Sportsbook in Prime Location at Kansas Star
Nelson’s optimism about Kansas State winning the Big 12 isn’t shared by the nation at large — FanDuel lists the Wildcats at +1200 to take the league title.
But the enthusiasm surrounding the launch of Kansas betting apps has been easy to see.
Thursday’s FanDuel grand opening brought out a full contingent of Wichita-area media. And by lunch time, a steady stream of customers were visiting one of the sportsbook’s 20 betting kiosks — to go along with four betting windows, 20 television screens and 20 large cushioned chairs.
The FanDuel Sportsbook is located at the casino’s west entrance and is less than 10 feet from its Tin Lizard Bar & Grill.
“The biggest difference (in the Kansas launch) for us is the retail sportsbook itself and having such a great location inside the casino,” said Jeff Lowich, the vice president of retail operations at FanDuel. “I think it’s a big help.
“Having a market like Wichita to operate in, you really can’t ask for more.”
Kansas Sports Betting a Big Hit
Kansas officials would be hard pressed to have asked for more in the first week of sports betting in the state.
By most accounts, the Sept. 1 soft launch has been a great success. Although no numbers have been released, the six operators who launched on opening day — Kansas BetMGM, DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel, Caesars Sportsbook, PointsBet and Barstool Sportsbook — have expressed universal optimism.
“This has all happened so quickly,” said Todd Allen, the director of wagering for the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission. “This would have never happened had our agency, the Kansas Lottery, the four state-owned casinos, the six sports wagering platforms and all the independent test labs not come together and had such great teamwork.
“If that teamwork had not been there, it would have taken us a long time to get this done. Now we’ve got things up and running, and I think it’s going to be a fun time in the state of Kansas.”
Officials Unsure When Additional Operators Will Launch
Both FanDuel at Kansas Star Casino and Barstool Sportsbook at Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway had temporary retail locations open by Sept. 1.
“FanDuel was one of two retail locations in Kansas to open for the soft launch, and that couldn’t have happened without the tireless work of many,” Lowich said. “We were a little skeptical about the timeline, but the regulators here were absolutely amazing to work with. They made it happen.
“On top of that, when you have great teams like at Kansas Star and our retail operations team at FanDuel, that makes all the difference.”
Allen said he expects retail locations at Boot Hill Casino and Kansas Crossing Casino to be open by sometime in October. Kansas Crossing is partnered with BetMGM, Caesars and PointsBet. Boot Hill Casino has announced partnerships with DraftKings, Golden Nugget and Bally Bet, but Golden Nugget and Bally Bet have yet to be licensed by the state.
Casinos in Kansas can partner with up to three sports betting operators. Kansas Star and Hollywood Casino currently only have one announced sports betting partner.
“We still have some opportunities to have other sports wagering platforms come online,” Allen said. “I think we’re going to have some additional mobile platforms that will happen throughout the state of Kansas. I don’t know how quickly that will take place. I think everybody was happy to get things up and running.
“We are hearing talks that there’s going to be some more. I don’t know if we will fulfill our maximum amount or not. But we’ll integrate those as the agreements come forward.”