Sports gambling in Kansas?

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Sports gambling could soon be coming to a convenience store or smart phone near you.  Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law banning live sports betting earlier this year, it’s something Kansas lawmakers have been talking about.

Now, they say it’s a question of how to do it right for Kansas more than if Kansas should do it.

Kansas lawmakers heard from leaders in the sports betting industry Tuesday, during an interim committee meeting. They say they want to know how best to implement the idea in Kansas.

“There’s just so many states that are just all over it. I mean they are going hard,” said Sen. Bud Estes, (R) Dodge City.

They say Kansas deserves a piece of that pie.  Estimates in Tuesday’s hearing were that live sports gambling would bring in an additional $5 million or so in taxes.

“It’s not going to build any highways and it’s not going to pay for any schools. It’s not that big of a deal,” said Estes.  But, it’s enough to get the attention of lawmakers who’ve spent much of the last decade having to cut budgets.

Some at Tuesday’s committee hearing, though, worry the estimated extra cash won’t cover the costs to the state.

“It frankly doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” said Rep. John Carmichael, (D) Wichita.  “Because we talk about regulatory costs, we talk about gambling addiction, we talk about enforcement costs. $5 million? I can’t see that’s justified.”

Though, he admits, the estimates are likely on the low end so as not to raise hopes of a windfall.  But, he says, addiction problems could be a lot higher, too.

“That’s always part of it, too,” Estes said.  “And that’s why part of the funds that come into the state will go to that particular fund, to help”

Carmichael is particularly worried with how to make sure gamblers are of legal age if Kansas allows online or phone app gambling.

“When you get children 16 years of age watching a football game with in-play gambling going on about whether the next field goal will be to the right or the left, I think we’re going down a very bad road,” Carmichael said.

Lawmakers didn’t make any recommendations out of this hearing. 
Estes wants committee members to attend a conference in New Orleans the first week in January for states that allow gambling or are considering it before writing any reports or recommendations for other lawmakers. 

Carmichael says that conference is a junket paid for by the sports gaming industry.  He does not plan to attend.