Lottery Executive Director Says Kansas Sports Betting Off to Good Start

Lottery Executive Director Says Kansas Sports Betting Off to Good Start
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

The opening weekend for Kansas sportsbooks was a success story according to regulators from the state lottery.

During Wednesday’s monthly meeting of the Kansas Lottery’s commissioners, Stephen Durrell, who serves as the agency’s executive director, said the weekend’s soft launch proceeded without major issue.

The opening stretch showed Kansas mobile betting apps are ready to take off once the market officially goes live at noon Central time Thursday.

“So far, knock on wood, it’s been very successful,” Durrell said during the meeting. “… People have been very interested in [sports betting] and there’s been a lot of wagers placed.”

Both Durrell and Matthew Schwartz, who serves as the lottery’s director of finance, said it would be a few weeks before regulators know for sure how the opening stretch of wagering in Kansas fared.

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What Stood Out From This Weekend’s Soft Launch

Both Durrell and Schwartz took turns breaking down small pieces of data during Wednesday’s call, including the fact Thursday’s Pittsburgh-West Virginia “Backyard Brawl” was the most popular event for sports bettors during the weekend.

FanDuel Sportsbook Kansas, which has the grand opening of its retail location at Kansas Star Casino on Thursday, said earlier in the week West Virginia-Pittsburgh was its most popular event during the Sept. 1 soft launch.

Durrell said sports betting in Kansas has already proven itself to be one of, if not the most popular addition to the lottery’s assortment of offerings since the state legalized casino gaming in 2007.

“[Sports betting has] been a popular venture over the past six days and we expect it to continue, especially as pro football kicks off,” Durrell said.

Both regulators took great strides to point out that it would be a while before official data is released by the lottery, but noted things look promising out of the gate.

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What’s to Come in Kansas Sports Betting

Other items covered during Wednesday’s meeting included a brief discussion of future sports betting licenses given to bars, restaurants and sports venues, as written into Kansas SB 84, which legalized wagering in the state.

No action was taken on those licenses, though Durrell and Schwartz both referenced them in the context of priming commissioners on future expansion in licenses allocated to operators.

Schwartz also discussed how the lottery plans on handling its future projections for sports betting revenue, telling commissioners the lottery and Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission plan on using Iowa as its baseline market.

The reason why Schwartz said regulators plan on using the Hawkeye State as its model is the two states have similar population bases (2.9 million for Kansas vs. 3.1 million for Iowa) and both markets have a mixture of mobile and retail wagering.

Schwartz said the two states also share similarities in their tax rates (10% in Kansas and 7% in Iowa), and the total number of licensees that will be live in the states (19 in Iowa and a possibility of 12 or more in Kansas).

Though none of the Kansas Lottery’s sports betting projections were released during Wednesday’s meeting, Cory Thone, who serves as the agency’s public information officer, said they plan on reporting information as soon as it’s realistic to do so.

“The numbers are still coming in from the casinos after the soft launch and three-day weekend. We’re waiting to compile until we have all the information available,” Thone said in a text message to “Over the next couple of weeks as we get out of the soft launch period, and the reporting between the casinos and the lottery becomes more streamlined, the information will be much easier to disseminate.”

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Christopher Boan is a lead writer at specializing in covering state issues. He covered sports and sports betting in Arizona for more than seven years.

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