Views from Kansas: Hold off on sports gambling
Editor’s Note: Views from Kansas is a regular feature that highlights editorials and other viewpoints from across the state.
The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet ruled on lifting a federal ban on legalized sports betting. Such a ruling is expected later this year. If the court favors broadening the availability of legalized sports wagering, as expected, the decision would enable states with casinos to offer sports books as alternative to staples such as slots and table games.
Kansas legislators are wise for holding off on the prospect for now, a move defended by Sen. Bud Estes, R-Dodge City, who chairs the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee. Greater concerns face legislators as they attempt to wrap up the current session, though bills regarding sports books will be worth examining next year if the Supreme Court allows such action in states other than Nevada.
Do not let a politician fool anyone into thinking the revenue stream will be altogether bountiful. The margin for casino profits on sports betting is relatively small. One estimate, which could be generous, calls for a $75 million annual windfall if Kansas was to impose a 6.75 percent tax.
Still, any estimates are premature until the state’s casinos actually decide whether to implement such forms of gaming. The take on such wagering would be higher at casinos near urban markets, namely the state-run casinos in Kansas City and Mulvane, though Estes’ hometown, Dodge City, certainly has a stake in the action as home to Boot Hill Casino and Resort.
Any potential revenue stream would be sliced even more if the state accepted a proposal from professional sports leagues to provide them a cut of the profits. Wagering on professional sports has been going on in Nevada for years and not provided professional leagues any cut. Why do so now in Kansas, or any other state, if such action is extended elsewhere in the U.S.?
“What do we get in return?” asked Kevin Fowler, a Topeka attorney representing state-owned casinos. “What are they required to do for Kansas in exchange for that fee? The answer is nothing.”
Any potential revenue stream is good for Kansas to consider and since casinos already exist, the availability of sports book wagering makes sense if legalized. Kansas casinos will appreciate the opportunity to see what kind of excitement, what level of interest and what revenue a sports book can add to their operations.
Another opportunity that will require some sophisticated fine-tuning is the potential of mobile apps that casinos could also be allowed to use for patrons to place wagers remotely. That method is viewed as another technique for reducing the amount of sports gambling conducted through illegal bookies.
The need to get everything right dictates that Kansas wait on the Supreme Court ruling and then act on the prospect of sports gambling if casinos are legally permitted to introduce that form of wagering.
— Originally published in the Topeka Capital-Journal