Kansas Online Poker, Betting And State Gambling Law

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Kansas Casinos Finally Cashing In, Lawmakers Yet To Consider Online Gambling

kansas sealPerhaps a little known fact about the state of Kansas is that within its borders is the geographical center of the 48 contiguous United States. Another fact, well known mostly to those who pay attention to gambling or the lack thereof in each state, is that Kansas was one of the last states to enact legislation to legalize gambling of any kind. So recent, as a matter of fact, that two of the three state-run casinos opened in 2018 and are doing well so far.

Kansas legislators are currently busy fleshing out details about possible changes in the distribution of casino profits to the state’s debt-ridden pension fund, and they have yet to take the first glimpse at the possibility of legalizing online gambling. However, as other states take the issue of Internet gambling on with renewed fervor, Kansas may find itself playing catch-up again.

Kansas lawmakers’ most recent move concerning gambling dealt more with how the profits will be allocated than what is or is not legal. Legislators in the Sunflower State just barely passed a final plan that would use nearly half of the revenue produced by the state’s three casinos to fund the Kansas Employees Retirement System. Lawmakers found themselves in a jam after crunching numbers and seeing an “$8 billion shortfall” faced by the retirement system that provides a pension to teachers and government employees.

After learning that the expected revenue was actually $5 million less than initially thought, legislators also noted that if they chose not to act, the burden would fall on Kansas taxpayers, to the tune of an increase in tax from 8.77 percent to more than 20 percent, a tax hike lawmakers did not want to pass on to their constituents. Initially, 75 percent of the casino money was to go to the pension fund, but after final negotiations, that number turned into 50 percent, which comes out to $40 million. But gaming officials remain optimistic that the new Kansas casinos will only see profits rise as time marches on, if recent figures are any indication. Despite only a three percent increase in gambling revenue nationwide, Kansas’ gambling revenue rose 28 percent, thanks mostly to the opening of the state’s second casino.[1]

Legislators considered but did not take action on another measure late in the 2018 legislative session that would have made it “easier to open a casino and reopen a dog track in Southeast Kansas.” While Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said the issue calls for more consideration than time allowed for in the waning hours of the 2018 session, some congressmen wanted the measure pushed through because of the creation of jobs that would come with the opening of a new casino. “We’re touting jobs,” said Rep. Doug Gatewood, one of the bill’s sponsors. “That’s what the Brownback administration has been touting. I’m hoping it provides lots of jobs.” Estimates show that possible revenue from a casino and dog track with slot machines located in Southeast Kansas could bring the state $15.4 million a year by 2018.[2]

A Frontier Both Old And New–Kansas’ History of Gambling

Back when the west was still wild, Kansas towns such as Abilene, Wichita, Dodge City, and Kansas City became gambling hotbeds because of the cattle and railroad industries nearby, and the employees of both who had money to wager. The betting was done on various games in saloons and gambling halls. Of course, drinking and gambling had the tendency to attract outlaws and other unwanted troublemakers, which in turn gave those towns a negative reputation.[3]

Fast-forward about 150 years, and the state of Kansas became one of the last to legalize gambling. It wasn’t until 1986 that Kansas passed legislation allowing horse and dog racing and pari-mutuel betting, as well as the establishment of a state lottery. A year later, the Kansas Racing Commission was created to regulate all racing in the state. Woodlands Racetrack was open and running greyhounds by 1989. The track added horse racing in 1990. Wichita Greyhound Park also opened in 1989. A third track, Camptown Greyhound Park, began racing in 1995, but closed after only six months.

Around that same time, the Woodlands began its push for slot machines as a way to boost income after being forced to nix both its horse and dog racing schedules. But measure after measure of proposed gambling law changes fell short year after year until 2007, when the legislature passed the Kansas Expanded Lottery Act. KELA, as it is known, gave the green light for four “destination casinos” in specific zones of the state and for slot machines at three racetracks.

However, controversy ensued when the Kansas Attorney General’s Office challenged the legislation. But in 2008, all doubts were cleared when state and federal courts both ruled KELA was constitutional. While the racetracks were unable to negotiate contracts that authorized slot machines with the Kansas Lottery, the casinos were on their way. Boot Hill Casino and Resort in Dodge City was the first to open in December 2009. Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City followed in early 2018, as did Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane. Discussion on a casino in the fourth zone did not make it all the way through the 2018 legislative session, but it is likely that lawmakers will re-visit the issue in 2018.[4]

Kansas is also home to five tribal casinos. The Kansas Legislature approved the creation of the State Gaming Agency in 1995 to “help uphold the integrity of Indian gaming operations in Kansas through the tribal-state compacts and the Tribal Gaming Oversight Act.” The five tribal casinos are Golden Eagle Casino in Horton; 7th Street Casino in Kansas City; Prairie Band Casino in Mayetta; Sac and Fox Casino in Powhattan; and Casino White Cloud in White Cloud.[5]

Future Of Online Gambling In Kansas Uncertain And May Hinge On Success Of Land-Based Casinos

Because Kansas is somewhat behind the curve in terms of how long residents have been able to gamble legally, legislators are not making any moves to join other states in pressing for online gambling legislation. The last gambling proposal introduced by lawmakers–less than two months ago–was to reduce the investment required for potential state-run brick and mortar casinos. Kansas residents who would relish the opportunity to legally play poker or casino games online should be prepared to wait for some time on that. However, with lawmakers beginning to see the revenue the three state-run casinos are generating, closer consideration of online gambling legislation could become a reality sooner than is currently expected.


[1] Kansas Retiree Systems Fund To Get Less Than Expected From Casino Earnings – Watchdog.org report
[2] Kansas legislators try again to regulate gambling in the state – The Joplin Globe newspaper
[3] Frontier Gamblers in the United States by Wikipedia.org
[4] The history of gaming in the state of Kansas – Kansas State Government Website
[5] A full list of brick and mortar casinos in Kansas – 500Nations.com