Overland Park Rep. Stephanie Clayton is betting Kansas lawmakers can fashion a superior mechanism of regulating legal sports gambling than a neighboring state to the east.
"I don't like getting beaten by Missouri. It's a Kansas trait. I think a lot of people share that," said Clayton, a Democrat serving on a House subcommittee asked to work through questions about drawing sports betting in Kansas out of the black market.
The panel met Friday for the first of three meetings to analyze organizational options. Should Kansas casinos, lottery retailers, dog racetracks or restaurants and bars be authorized to engage in sports betting? Should professional or college sports associations be paid a percentage of revenue from Kansas' sports books? And, should there be a single app for mobile sports gambling in Kansas or could each casino or bar market its own app?
Rep. Jan Kessinger, R-Overland Park, said the state was constitutionally obligated to make certain sports betting fell within the state-owned framework shared with the Kansas Lottery. That standard, for example, requires casino gaming equipment to be owned by the state and brick-and-mortar buildings to be owned by casino managers. He suggested it might get tricky if state law allowed a wide-open sports book system.
"What is the state's protection in that regard?" Kessinger said.
Stephen Durrell, interim director of the Kansas Lottery, said drawing the right line in state statute might be a challenge.
"If the state owns and operates its own app, then I don't think there's any question that constitutes state owned and operated," he said. "The question is what line do we have to hit if there are individual casino apps or individual restaurant apps? That's the real interesting question. I'm not sure we know the answer to that."
Rep. Renee Erickson, a Wichita Republican on the subcommittee, said she didn't understand why lottery retailers, the casinos and other businesses were "fighting for the relatively small pot of money." She said sports book betting generated about $15 million annually for the state of Nevada.
In a bill introduced in the Legislature, the state would tax sports betting at 6.75 percent. The bill also set aside a 0.25 percent royalty for sports governing bodies.
Durrell said estimates of how much tax revenue the state could receive fluctuated wildly depending on proposed structure of the system. In addition, he said, excluding people under the age of 21 and dealing with problem gamblers could be challenging with wagers made remotely by cellphone or computer.
"It's akin to parents allowing their kids to drink that are under the age of 21," he said. "There's only so much the state can do try and help regulate this. There is some degree of personal responsibility that we have to be aware of. In this situation, it's a line to walk."
He said the Kansas Lottery wouldn't object to a legislative mandate for more investment in programs helpful to gambling addicts.