Kansas Sports Betting Legalization Push Aims To Narrow Colorado’s Lead

Posted By Derek Helling on February 7, 2020 - Last Updated on February 26, 2020

Colorado could be the first among its neighboring states with live, legal wagering on sporting events, but that lead may not last long. A bill to legalize Kansas sports betting has seen some action.

If the optimistic hopes of the bill’s supporters come true, legal sportsbooks in the Jayhawk State could launch within three or four months after the same go live in the Centennial State. That’s still very up in the air, however.

What’s going on with Kansas sports betting right now?

The Kansas Senate’s Committee on Federal and State Affairs introduced a new bill to regulate legal wagering on sports on Jan. 21. It’s still in that committee, which last addressed the bill on Jan. 30.

Currently, there is no further action scheduled on the matter. It’s unclear if the bill will come to a vote in the committee, or, if so, when that would happen.

If the bill should clear the committee and proceed to the full Senate, obviously it would have to clear that hurdle of a vote by the full body. Kansas has a bicameral legislature, so the state House would repeat that process.

It’s unclear whether Jayhawk State Gov. Laura Kelly would support the bill as currently written if it hits her desk. She has expressed approval for the general idea of legalizing wagering on sports in the past but has thus far had no comment on this specific bill.

Despite the long road ahead, there is optimism in the state. Jeff Morris, Penn National’s VP of Public Affairs & Government Relations, said he hopes legal sportsbooks can be up and running ahead of the next college football and NFL seasons.

Because of that optimism, this is worth watching for stakeholders in Colorado. The more the probability of this bill’s passage increases, the more time becomes a key factor for them.

Why this matters for stakeholders in Colorado

As long as Colorado remains an island of legal wagering amid a sea of neighbor states that don’t regulate the activity, there is great potential. Every state that follows Colorado’s leads diminishes that potential.

This will be especially true once online sportsbooks open in Colorado. At that point, Kansas residents will be able to cross the border and place legal wagers from anywhere.

Such activity represents a transfer of tax dollars from Kansas to Colorado. Optimizing that is a matter of speed right now.

Every day that Colorado sportsbooks remain void of activity is a lost chance to claim those dollars. The industry in the Centennial State is already somewhat behind the eight ball.

Colorado has a moratorium on legal wagering that doesn’t expire until May 1. There’s no guarantee that the sportsbooks will actually be ready to go on that day, either.

That gives Kansas’ Legislature almost three months to work through its process and start licensing sportsbooks. When May 1 comes, the Jayhawk State may not be far behind.

While sportsbooks and state regulators are likely much more concerned about their own operations than they are about what’s happening in another state, time is of the essence. The activity in Kansas is just another reason to move quickly.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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