Pursuit of Kansas Sportsbooks Reignites Border War Rivalry With Missouri

Pursuit of Kansas Sportsbooks Reignites Border War Rivalry With Missouri
By Christopher Boan
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

A pair of midwestern neighbors have rekindled their rivalry, this time over the states’ desire to launch sports betting within their boundaries.

Both Missouri and online betting in Kansas are on the verge of legalization, which would clear the way for the two to join the more than 30 states and D.C. that have already done so.

Such a move would allow two of the region’s largest cities, in Kansas City and St. Louis, to get their hands in the game — while also giving professional sports teams in the states added revenue opportunities.

Whether it’s SB84 in Kansas or HB2502 in Missouri, the Sunflower and Show Me states are motivated to get sports betting across the finish line before the other does.

Why Kansas is Trying to Beat Missouri to Market

Kansas Rep. Stephanie Clayton told BetKansas.com the legislature’s ability to get SB84 across the finish line is vitally important, given the stakes involved.

One such stake is that Kansas’ sports betting bill allocates 80% of all revenue from wagering to lure the Kansas City Chiefs from Arrowhead Stadium on the Missouri side to a new stadium site in Kansas City, Kansas.

“I wasn’t entirely appreciative of the 11th hour aspect of the addition, because we should communicate such changes, and if it’s a good idea it should stand on its own two feet,” Clayton told BetKansas.com. “But it is something that I would support if that fund to attract professional sports teams to Kansas would — say that it doesn't come to fruition — the money that is generated from that can always be swept back to our state federal fund so there are safeguards in place."

Another reason getting sports betting on the books is important to the state, according to industry expert Brendan Bussmann, who has served as a partner and director of government affairs for gaming and hospitality consulting firm Global Market Advisors since 2015, is the state’s long-standing gaming culture.

Kansas initially legalized casino play in 2007 and has shown itself to be a strong market for sports betting, Bussmann said, because of its strong ties to the Kansas City market’s sports teams, in addition to Kansas, Kansas State and Wichita State athletics.

That means casinos in the state, such as Penn National Gaming’s Hollywood Casino and Boyd Gaming’s Kansas Star Casino in Wichita, are well positioned to get sports betting in place rather quickly and succeed once wagering opens to the public, whenever that may be.

“Those casinos have been running now for, you know, the better part of roughly a dozen years,” Bussmann said. “Overall, this is a good market for (sports betting).”

How the Border War Plays into Sports Betting

The longstanding rivalry between the two states that share the Kansas River absolutely plays a role in the rollout of wagering in the region, according to those that talked with BetKansas.com.

Outside of the motivation to keep the Chiefs (Missouri) or to uproot them across the river (Kansas), there’s also the matter of capturing as much of the region’s market share as possible once each state’s sports betting market launches.

“There's always been a rivalry between Kansas and Missouri,” Bussmann said. “You've seen it in basketball, you've seen it in football, and now you share it with sports betting along the way. So, I've always said if one falls, the other falls. If the other one doesn't, then you may run into an obstacle. So, you know, I think obviously, it's a race to the finish at this point.”

For Clayton, it’s about capturing the maximum amount of wagering revenue and ensuring residents that want to wager on the Royals, Chiefs, Jayhawks, Wildcats or Shockers can keep their money in their home state.

“I think it's tremendously important because there are a lot of hidden revenues that come with (sports betting)," Clayton said. "Let's say that we had an amazing event, like we had (on April 4), where KU won the (NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament). And let's say that Kansas had (sports betting) and Missouri didn't. Well, you'd have folks over here on the Kansas side in our businesses spending money, they're buying food and drink, spending time with their friends over here and not on the Missouri side. Because those apps would work here and not there. So, you have those hidden revenues that are generated for our local businesses."

Even the particulars of the two states’ sports betting bills were made with the other in mind.

In Kansas, SB84 sets a tax rate of 10% for mobile and retail sports betting, which is the same level Missouri’s professional sports collective vouched for when HB2502 was debated in the Show Me State.

The finalized version of HB2502 wound up pinning the sports betting tax rate at 8%.

A Bold New Era for Kansas Sports Betting

For Clayton, helping the Sunflower State cross the sports betting finish line ahead of their easterly neighbors would be a feat in and of itself.

The fifth-term Democratic legislator form Overland Park sees Kansas as a trailblazer in the region when it comes to gaming and hopes the state will lead the way in wagering from Day 1.

"Kansas and Missouri had been fighting for over 150 years. So that’s kind of our thing, right?" Clayton said. "Because this has been a long-standing rivalry, we've got a unique aspect there. That economic development battle that has been happening for quite some time. And so, it's bred into all of our bones, and I would say that my friends on the Missouri side feel this way as well.

"And that type of competition — let's get it before Missouri does, let's get it better than Missouri does — Whether it comes to taxation, whether it comes to sports betting apps in Kansas, or whether it comes to Medicaid expansion, or cannabis legalization (where they have sadly beaten us, I might add), but that healthy competition is definitely something that always occurs."

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

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