Legalization of sports wagering is a good bet after Kansas House approval, perhaps setting up a new ‘Border War’

Even as the University of Kansas Jayhawks were crowned Monday night as NCAA men’s basketball champions, a new Border War of sorts has emerged between Kansas and Missouri: a race to push lawmakers to be the first of the two states to legalize sports betting.

The movement to legalize sports betting is the furthest along it has ever been in the two-state region, due to mounting pressure on both sides of the state line to allow it. Indeed, both Kansas and Missouri legislatures boast bills that have passed through their respective Houses.

House members in Topeka advanced the final bill to the Senate with a vote of 63-49 on April 1. The Senate will now decide April 25 if it goes to Gov. Laura Kelly for her consideration. Kelly told reporters last week she would like to see some form of sports betting in Kansas.

The bill would legalize mobile and retail sports betting at the four state-owned casinos: Hollywood Casino in Kansas City, Kansas; Boothill Casino in Dodge City;  Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane; and the Crossing in Pittsburg.

“We believe that the four state casinos are in the best position to make sports wagering available to the people of Kansas,” Bruce Christenson, managing member of the Kansas Crossing Casino, said in testimony to legislators. “Access to legal, regulated sports wagering through our state casinos and online accounts in Kansas is necessary to meet the needs of our citizens and to discourage them from resorting to the illegal market.”

As a last-minute amendment, Kansas House members decided that 80% of state tax revenues from sports gambling should go into an “Attracting Professional Sports in Kansas” fund, which would be used to incentivize sports franchises to move to the state.

“If a team wanted to move into Wichita, or the Kansas side of Kansas City, we would have some kind of incentive that we can offer them to come,” Rep. John Barker, R-Abilene, chair of the House State and Federal Committee, told reporters. “Other states do this. Kansas does not presently.”

The Kansas City Chiefs, whose home is on the Missouri side, weren’t specifically mentioned at a legislative committee meeting in Topeka this week. But Kansas City Chiefs President Mark Donovan told the media the franchise was considering new stadium options, including in Kansas.

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