Kansas has yet to legalize sports betting, but prospects look good for that to change sooner rather than later.
In early 2020 the state’s Senate passed a bill that would legalize sports betting at the state’s four commercial casinos. The House was supportive as well, and even proposed an expanded bill adding sports betting at the state’s lottery retailers. Meanwhile, Gov. Laura Kelly expressed opposition to legalizing sports betting, though lawmakers likely had the votes to avoid a veto.
The legislative session was abruptly shortened due to the coronavirus, however, and sports betting had to be tabled for 2020. Competing visions and viewpoints remain among Kansas legislators, but it certainly appears sports betting will be foremost on the agenda in 2021.
In other words, much as the Kansas City Chiefs (who play just across the state line at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri) came back to win Super Bowl LIV, there may well be a legislative comeback for sports betting in Kansas.
Read on for an overview of sports betting in Kansas, including how the issue has been discussed so far and an indication of what to expect when legal sports betting finally arrives in the Sunflower State.
The background of Kansas gambling law
During the Old West era, many legendary gambling stories emanated out of Kansas. The town of Dodge City was the site of several of them, including some involving Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and other legendary frontiersmen. By the 20th century, however, Kansas was largely opposed to gambling, with laws on the books prohibiting most forms.
Kansas legalized certain types of charitable and social gambling during the 1970s. For many decades, Kansas was central to the thoroughbred and quarter horse racing industry. But it wasn’t until 1986 that the state’s voters approved an amendment to the Kansas Constitution to legalize pari-mutuel wagering on horse and greyhound racing.
The law took effect in 1987, and multiple racetracks opened thereafter. That was the same year Kansas first legalized the state lottery.
The racetracks struggled, however, and in the mid-1990s there came a push to allow them to install video gambling terminals to increase revenue. Voters approved that initiative, but the attorney general ruled the vote unconstitutional.
Casinos come to Kansas
Subsequent efforts similarly failed, and ultimately different gambling legislation appeared in 2007, the Kansas Expanded Lottery Act. The new law did more than just allow racetracks to install electronic gambling machines (albeit with very high tax rates on revenue). It also permitted the construction of four casinos located in four different “gaming zones” around the state.
Lawmakers passed the bill, and it became law in 2008. Citizens in each locality had to vote to approve the addition of slots at racetracks as well as the new casinos. In some cases those referendums failed. Over the course of several years, locations were approved and casinos finally built and opened in each of the four zones:
- Boot Hill Casino (Dodge City, KS), opened in 2009
- Kansas Star Casino (Mulvane, KS), opened in 2011
- Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway (Kansas City, KS), opened in 2012
- Kansas Crossing Casino and Hotel (Pittsburg, KS), opened in 2017
The Hollywood Casino is the state’s largest, with around 100,000 square feet of gambling space and 2,000 slots. The Kansas Star Casino is next largest, with about half that amount of gambling space but almost as many slots.
These four casinos are technically state-owned, though operated by private companies. Ultimately they helped contribute to the demise of the privately owned state racetracks, all of which had closed by the early 2010s.
In 2015, the state’s lawmakers passed a bill legalizing daily fantasy sports in Kansas. The law was passed after the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission raised an objection to fantasy sports, calling it an illegal lottery. Thus did Kansas join a handful of other states in which sites like DraftKings and FanDuel have been declared legal. In most states, fantasy sports sites operate without there being any explicit law authorizing them.
Tribal gambling in Kansas
In addition to the state’s four commercial casinos, Kansas is also home to five tribal casinos. Unlike the commercial casinos that are deliberately located in different parts of the state, all five of the tribal casinos are situated in the northeastern corner of Kansas.
Their location puts the tribal casinos in competition with Hollywood Casino in Kansas City, which also contends with Missouri casinos just across the state line. Another of the commercial casinos, Kansas Crossing in Pittsburg, faces similar competition from tribal casinos not far away in Oklahoma.
With oversight from the newly formed Kansas State Gaming Agency as well as the National Indian Gaming Commission, the first tribal-state compacts were agreed to in 1995. The Golden Eagle Casino operated by the Kickapoo Tribe was the first tribal casino to open its doors, in 1996.
The Golden Eagle remains the largest of the tribal casinos, with over 45,000 square feet of gambling space and around 750 slots. The Prairie Band Casino & Resort in Mayetta operated by the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation is physically smaller than the Golden Eagle. However the Prairie Band Casino actually has around 1,100 slots.
A sixth tribal casino has been approved, the Park City Casino in Park City near Wichita in south central Kansas, although with Class II gambling only (i.e., no “Vegas”-style games like slots, roulette, etc.).
When will sports betting launch in Kansas?
Ever since the US Supreme Court ruled in May 2018 that states other than Nevada could legalize sports betting, Kansas lawmakers have been exploring the possibility.
In fact, sports betting bills were being discussed even before the ruling. One of those early bills would have permitted the Kansas Lottery to take bets at the state’s 1,200 lottery retail locations. There was no movement in either 2018 or 2019, however.
As noted above, 2020 began with more tangible progress. The Senate passed a bill that would allow the four commercial casinos to offer sports betting both in person and online. Meanwhile, the House had its own bill that again would allow lottery retailers to accept sports wagers. These discussions all came to an end, however, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced Kansas to end its legislative session early.
The topic will no doubt be taken up again in early 2021. That means the earliest sports betting could go live in Kansas would be late 2021.
Where will I be able to make legal sports bets in Kansas?
So far, sports betting bills suggest different possibilities for the retail locations where Kansas bettors would be able place wagers.
Retail sportsbooks in Kansas
Looking at how the debate has gone to this point, retail sportsbooks could appear in a few places:
- The four commercial casinos
- The 1,200 lottery retailers
- The four dormant racetracks
- Other sporting facilities
While the state’s three horse racetracks and one greyhound racetrack are all now closed, they could reopen if sports betting were made legal. Operators of the tracks remain interested and have entered debates about sports betting’s future in the state.
If they were to reopen, the racetracks could once again offer electronic gambling machines as before. In fact, discussions of sports betting bills to this point have included consideration of racetracks as sports betting locations and of lowering the slot machine tax rate for the tracks, too.
The bill that passed the Senate in 2020 also included a provision to allow sports venues to offer sports betting areas. The venues would need to sign agreements with the state’s casinos in order to do so.
Online sportsbooks in Kansas
Most discussions and proposals have also included online sports betting, which means sports bettors may also have a mobile option once sports betting is legalized in the state.
States that have legalized sports betting have uniformly found having an online option to be especially beneficial. In most cases, online wagering creates more than 80% of the sports betting revenue in states where both retail and mobile options exist.
There are also a host of operators looking to enter new markets as states continue to legalize sports betting. Some that could hypothetically come to Kansas include:
What sports can I bet on in Kansas?
Both retail and online sportsbooks offer a variety of sports on which to bet. Most accept wagers on practically all American sports, both professional and collegiate. Often international sports such as European soccer are available to bet on, as well.
Here are sports upon which most sportsbooks in KS accept wagers:
- Australian rules football
- Auto racing
- Mixed martial arts (MMA)
It remains to be seen whether Kansas imposes any restrictions on betting on certain sports in its legislation. Some states disallow betting on sports involving colleges located with the state. Others restrict in game betting or prop bets on college sports. Legislation that Kansas lawmakers have contemplated to this point has not included such restrictions.
Betting on pro sports teams from Kansas
Technically speaking, Kansas has no professional franchises in the four major American sports leagues — MLB, the NBA, the NFL and the NHL.
There is one Major League Soccer franchise in the state, Sporting Kansas City (formerly the Kansas City Wizards), which plays home matches at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas Speedway, also located near Kansas City, hosts two NASCAR races each year.
That said, those from Kansas still often have a strong rooting interest in pro teams who play home games just across the border in Kansas City, Missouri.
That means a lot of Kansas support for the 2020 Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. That also means many in the state root for the Kansas City Royals in baseball, who last won the World Series in 2015.
To the south, the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder also has a lot of fans in Kansas.
Betting on college teams from Kansas
Multiple universities in the state field NCAA teams. The Kansas Jayhawks (in Lawrence) are the most popular, particularly the school’s men’s basketball program, which has claimed three NCAA titles and is always in the mix when March Madness rolls around.
The Kansas State Wildcats (in Manhattan) have also enjoyed success in basketball over the years, having advanced deep in the NCAA tournament on many occasions.
More recently, the Wichita State Shockers have emerged as a consistently competitive squad on the hardwood, also making multiple deep tournament runs. The Shockers finished the 2013-14 regular season undefeated (34-0), the first team to do so in more than two decades. Alas, Wichita State fell in the second round of that year’s NCAA tournament.
Both Kansas and Kansas State also compete in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
Horse and dog races are legal to bet on in Kansas
After spending many years at the forefront of horse and greyhound racing in the country, Kansas has no operating racetracks at present. If sports betting becomes legal, however, the currently dormant tracks could reopen and add retail sportsbooks, depending on how lawmakers write the legislation.
Meanwhile betting on horse and dog races remains legal in the state via off-track betting (OTB). There are no OTB parlors in the state where bettors can place wagers on simulcast races. However those in Kansas can bet on races online at several sites, including:
What types of sports bets can I make in Kansas?
Kansas sportsbooks likely will accept a variety of types of bets, including:
- Moneyline — a “straight up” bet on one side to win, disregarding any point spreads.
- Spread — a bet that factors in the point spread, meaning if the Kansas Jayhawks are a 6.5-point favorite and you bet on Kansas -6.5, they need to win by more than 6.5 points (i.e., seven or more) in order to win your bet.
- Total — a bet on whether the total points scored by both sides will go over or under a line the sportsbook has set (an “over/under” bet).
- Parlay — a single wager involving multiple bets or “legs,” each of which has to be correct in order for the parlay to win.
- Round robin — a type of parlay bet that still pays out a partial amount if you lose one or more “legs” of the bet.
- Teaser — another type of parlay bet in which the bettor gets to alter or “tease” the spreads or totals for one or more of the contests in the parlay.
- Prop — a bet on an outcome unrelated to the game’s result, such as on how many points a particular player will score in the game; such “proposition bets” can be on a player or team (“player props” and “team props”).
- Futures — a bet on some event that will be settled at a future date, such as which player will win an MVP award or which team will win a championship.
- In game betting — a bet on a particular play or result within an ongoing game, also called “live betting”; such bets can be on the outcome of the following play; they can also be moneyline, spread or totals bets on the entire game, with the odds for each changing as the game progresses.
What is the minimum age for sports betting in Kansas?
In Kansas, the minimum age to gamble in a casino is 21 years old. However, the minimum to purchase a lottery ticket is 18 years old. Sports betting legislation discussed to this point generally treats sports betting as an extension of the lottery. That said, the state’s four commercial casinos will likely host retail sportsbooks.
It remains to be seen what the minimum legal age will be once Kansas legalizes sports betting.
How do I deposit money into an online sports betting account?
Kansas sports betting is not legal yet. Kansas is considering online options for sports bettors, which would give them the ability to place wagers via a web-based browser or mobile app. Should online sportsbooks launch, there will be a variety of ways available both to deposit into accounts and withdraw funds.
Typically online sportsbooks allow some or all of these banking options:
- Credit and debit cards
- Prepaid cards
- Check or money order
- Bank wire transfer and e-checks/ACH
- Payment processors (e.g., PayPal, Skrill, Neteller)
Depositing or withdrawing cash usually means visiting the cashier cage at the retail location associated with the sportsbook. In Kansas, that would likely mean visiting one of the casinos or other locations offering sports betting.
Note that usually there are more options for depositing than there are for withdrawing. When first depositing, it is worth looking at the withdrawal methods available beforehand. Often it is preferable to deposit using a method that is also available for withdrawing (e.g., e-checks/ACH, PayPal). That makes things easier later on, eliminating the need to establish a second, different method for withdrawing.
Also, when first depositing at an online sportsbook, be certain to check for welcome bonuses, including matching deposit bonuses. These often require entering a bonus code when making that first deposit, so be sure to find out if there are any such offers so you can take advantage.
Who will regulate Kansas sports betting?
The Kansas Lottery will likely oversee sports betting in the state once it becomes legal.