Kansas is working to legalize online and retail sports betting, with SB84 moving through the state legislature.
The bill allows each of the state’s four casinos to gain upwards of three skins apiece, while also giving professional sports teams in Kansas the right to partner with operators.
A new component of the Kansas sports betting bill involves revenue to lure professional teams to the state.
BetKansas.com chatted with Rep. Stephanie Sawyer Clayton, a fifth-term Democratic member of the state house who represents District 19 in the chamber.
Below is a transcript of that conversation, edited for brevity and clarity.
BetKansas.com: Why is sports betting important to you and the state?
Rep. Stephanie Sawyer Clayton: Well, sports betting is important to me because I hear about it a lot from my constituents. And so, as a representative, it's my job to give them what they want. The issues that I hear the most about are usually education and taxes. But as of late, I've been hearing about education, and then sports wagering and then taxes. And so that kind of tells me what the level of interest is, among those I represent. I think a lot of this — I represent an area that borders up to Missouri and so, Missouri is getting closer to passing their sports wagering legislation, so that has turned the pressure up for Kansas.
BetKansas.com: What’s special about the Kansas sports betting law in your opinion?
Rep. Clayton: There was a last-minute provision that was added in — talk about 11th hour — that would set aside most of the earnings from the sports wagering bill in Kansas to attract professional sports teams to the state. Now, I wasn't entirely appreciative of the 11th hour aspect of that because we should communicate. And if it's a good idea, then it should stand on its own two feet.
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.
Kansas-Missouri Rivalry Plays Out in Betting
BetKansas.com: How important is it for Kansas to hit the market before Missouri?
Rep. Clayton: Well, I think it's tremendously important, because there are a lot of hidden revenues that come with that. So, for instance, our sports wagering (bill), and I assume that Missouri's as well allows for geofencing.
So, for instance, let's say that Kansas legalized sports wagering, and Missouri doesn't, you can't do any of the legal sports wagering, including going to a Kansas betting app, from your phone or on your mobile device if you're on the wrong side of the state line.
So, let's say that we had ... oh, I don't know, an amazing event, like we had in early April, where KU won the (NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship). And let's say that Kansas had (sports betting) and Missouri didn't.
Well, you'd have folks over on the Missouri side in our businesses spending money, they're buying food and drinks, spending time with their friends over here and not on the Missouri side. Because those apps would work here and not there. So, you also have those hidden revenues that are generated for our local businesses.
BetKansas.com: Can you take me through the rivalry between Missouri and Kansas and how it seems to be playing out on this issue?
Rep. Clayton: Well, Kansas and Missouri had been fighting for over 150 years. Just wanted to let you know, slavery is bad (Kansas was admitted to the Union in 1861 as a free state just before the Civil War). I am a Kansan. So that's kind of our thing, right? Because this has been a long-standing rivalry, we've got a unique aspect there.
I mean, obviously, there are several metropolitan areas that are bi-state, so we're not totally unique in that. But we really do sort of have that economic development battle that has been happening for quite some time.
And so, it's bred into all our bones, and I would say that my friends on the Missouri side feel this way as well — that type of competition, that 'let's get it before Missouri does, let's get it better than Missouri does' mentality.
Whether it comes to taxation, whether it comes to sports wagering, whether it comes to Medicaid expansion, or cannabis legalization (where they have sadly beaten us, I might add), but that healthy competition is something that always occurs.
BetKansas.com: How much have you guys studied other states? Are there are other states you would like to pattern your laws and market after?
Rep. Clayton: I think we looked at least initially after some models — I want to say in Ohio and Oklahoma. It's been so long since we've had some of our subcommittees because this is something that we have been able to do since 2018.
But lots of fighting about how to do it has occurred. And I don't know if we're really modeling anything off any state. This is kind of a uniquely Kansas plan.
And we had a lot of stakeholders, as is the case in a lot of states, when it comes to sports wagering. So, we've got our state lottery, we have our casinos, we have parimutuel racing, when it comes to dogs and horses, and all of that really coming into play, not to mention what the professional sports teams are looking at the sorts of regulations that they would like to apply to them.
So, that's part of the reason why it's taken us as long as we have, it's taking the stakeholders a while to come up with something that they agree on. But the reason why we got movement was not only the pressure from Missouri moving on it, but also because our stakeholders finally decided to come together and come up with a plan upon which they could all agree.
Kansas Has Deep College, Pro Sports Interests
BetKansas.com: How do you envision the state’s sports betting marketplace once the market launches?
Rep. Clayton: If my constituent communication has been any indication, it should fare quite well. This is particularly helpful because Kansas and Kansas City area sports teams have been doing as well as they have.
I'm Gen X, so I don't remember the Chiefs winning a Super Bowl until our recent win. And the last time I remember the Royals winning the World Series (before 2015) was in ... oh, jeez, I was in elementary school, I was barely old enough to stay up.
So, we're starting to see all of this, not to mention Sporting Kansas City over here on the Kansas side of the state line. So again, with a lot of that enthusiasm, and with the fact that we've got some good, winning teams over here in our area, I think it's going to bode incredibly well.
BetKansas.com: Is there anything you’d like people to know about the law and its impacts on the state at large?
Rep. Clayton: I think one of the things that I liked the best about this law is that it does have some safeguards for gaming addiction. Because when you have this type of legal gaming that is available on your mobile device, a lot of times folks can stop gambling when they leave the casino, right? Well, now it's in people's homes.
And so, I was pleased to support measures that put a lot of protections in place, at least as far as problem gaming is concerned, and allows Kansans to self-select, and things like that. So that makes me feel better.
We have a lot of opposition to gambling in general. On the Kansas side, it's a very conservative state, and a very socially conservative state. But I think you're starting to see more alliances formed between Democrats like myself and more of the libertarian type of Republicans who understand that people want to do what they want to do and have fun and ways that they want to have fun. So that's where you start seeing that bipartisanship coming together.
BetKansas.com: What has this process taught you about the state’s reception to the idea of legalized sports betting?
Rep. Clayton: I think we have run into some roadblocks for several years. So, for instance, the committee that I sit on, it has a lot of very strong social conservatives that carry some of the prejudices that people have about Kansas, with prohibition in general.
And so, I think we're starting to see, again, that movement away from Kansas, as being a socially conservative state that isn't really into fun, into sort of moving more towards the future, more towards economic development, because sports teams certainly do provide that, I think.
And so, I think that this is also a good, pro-business move, and so I was happy to support that.