Legal sports betting in Kansas is set to start in early September, just in time for the National Football League's regular season and marking one of the fastest turnarounds by regulators in any state to authorize event wagering.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced on Thursday that retail and online sportsbooks in the state can start accepting wagers starting on September 1. That will be followed by an "official" opening on September 8, the same day as the first game of the NFL's regular season.
The executive director of the Kansas Lottery — which technically owns and operates all commercial casino games in the state, and through which legal sports betting will flow — said in a video that September 1 will be the "tentative soft launch" of wagering in the state. That will be followed by a "full launch" on September 8.
"There are still several regulatory and administrative hurdles that we need to get through to make this launch a reality but we're hopeful we can get there," Stephen Durrell said.
Kelly's press release announcing the news said operators are being granted a one-year provisional license based on their historic activities in other states, and added online sportsbooks that have been granted contracts will soon be announced.
“Legalizing sports betting is a common-sense solution that keeps Kansans’ money in Kansas and drives business to sporting events, casinos, restaurants, and other entertainment venues,” Kelly added in the release. “I want to thank all our partners for working with us to get this done in time for football season.”
Legal sports betting in Kansas will be offered by commercial casinos and online bookmakers, as well as at a variety of other businesses and venues via marketing agreements with the gaming operators.
The state’s sports-betting law allows for up to 12 online sportsbooks via partnerships with its four commercial casinos. Sportsbooks at tribal casinos are a possibility as well if new gaming agreements are signed, with Kelly's press release noting that those facilities are already "working to align on contracts with the State of Kansas for sports wagering."
Meanwhile, there are four commercial casinos contracted with the state to offer sports betting at their facilities and through the platforms of online sportsbook operators. The four are Boot Hill Casino & Resort near Dodge City, Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane, Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway, and Kansas Crossing Casino & Hotel in Pittsburg.
All four casinos already have partnerships lined up with major sportsbook operators such as BetMGM, DraftKings, and FanDuel. Some operators have even begun offering sign-up bonuses to Kansas bettors in anticipation of an earlier launch.
Racing to vet and verify
In anticipation of the announcement, the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission (KRGC) and the lottery have been racing to complete the vetting of sportsbook applicants and other technical verifications in time for the start of the NFL’s regular season. The latest news also follows the KRGC approving over 100 regulations last Friday that pushed the state closer to launching online sports betting after years of waiting.
The director of sports wagering at the KRGC, Todd Allen, said in an interview with Covers on Wednesday that a launch before the start of the NFL season was well within the realm of possibility provided there were no unexpected delays in the ongoing licensing process.
"I'm going to say that there's still a chance of that happening," Allen said. "We still have to have some information from third-party vendors that needs to come in relating to some of our interactive sports wagering platforms. We have to certify data feeds, oddsmakers, and other technical elements, but if everybody does their part I think there's still the ability to be able to get this up and running soon. That gives us hope that we can still be able to do something early on in the NFL season.
"But once we receive all the information we need to have come in, we have the ability under Kansas law to issue provisional licenses on the basis of limited background information, especially in the case of those sports wagering platform providers which have already been certified in other jurisdictions. We can turn those applications around relatively quickly."
-with files from Geoff Zochodne