Kansas’ sports betting regulations have ‘significant legal issues,’ AG’s Office says

·3 min read
John Locher/File photo

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office said it has found “significant legal issues” with the Kansas Lottery’s proposed sports betting regulations as the state prepares for the start of legal wagers.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly announced Thursday that sports betting will begin Sept. 1, capping a four-year process to bring legal sports gambling to the state.

But within minutes of the announcement, a spokesman for Schmidt, Kelly’s Republican opponent in the Nov. 8 election, told The Star that a legal review had found problems.

“We are aware of the urgency in this matter and have expedited and nearly completed initial review of the proposed regulations from the Kansas Lottery. Our initial review has identified significant legal issues with the agency’s proposed regulations,” Schmidt’s official spokesman John Milburn said in an email.

Cory Thone, a spokesman for the Kansas Lottery, said in a statement that the agency has an excellent working relationship with the Kansas Attorney General’s Office. He said there is always an “exchange of ideas and legal theories” that takes place during the approval process for regulations.

“This is an ordinary course of business with the Lottery and The Attorney General’s office, and the Lottery is confident that any issues the Attorney General has potentially identified will be worked out very quickly,” Thone said. “Given our past experiences in working with the Attorney General’s Office, at this point we still believe we will make the September 1 soft launch date.”

Milburn didn’t specify the problems identified by Schmidt’s office. Milburn said the Kansas Attorney General’s Office would provide formal feedback to the Kansas Lottery “within days” and give the agency the opportunity to correct legal deficiencies. Milburn didn’t identify the problems found. He also said Schmidt’s office has begun reviewing sports betting regulations from the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission.

“We intend to approve these regulations as soon as the agency fixes the legal problems in their initial version,” Milburn said.

The Kansas Attorney General’s Office regularly conducts legal reviews of proposed regulations. But the fast pace with which Kansas is moving to implement sports betting ahead of the NFL’s regular season is shining a spotlight on the process.

While it took years for the Legislature to pass a bill to legalize wagers, the agencies with regulatory authority over gambling have moved swiftly, anticipating intense interest in bets on the Kansas City Chiefs this fall.

“This announcement represents a lot of hard work and collaboration between the Kansas Lottery, the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, our casino and tribal partners,” Stephen Durrell, Kansas Lottery executive director, said in a statement.

“The process to bring this to fruition has moved at an unbelievable pace. We are excited to be bringing sports betting to Kansas players and adding more fun and exciting play options to the Sunflower State.”

Kansas plans to begin allowing bets in person and via mobile on Sept. 1 at four state-owned casinos. Sports betting will officially open fully on Sept. 8, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

The four casinos are Boot Hill Casino & Resort in Ford County, near Dodge City; Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane; Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.; and Kansas Crossing Casino & Hotel in Pittsburg.

The governor’s release noted that “tribal casinos are also working to align on contracts with the State of Kansas for sports wagering. These casinos will be authorized to launch as soon as they are ready.”

State Sen. Rob Olson, an Olathe Republican and sports betting proponent, said he wasn’t surprised Kansas would be able to launch betting by the time the NFL season begins. More than 30 states have legalized sports gambling.

“We’re not the first to do this and that helps a lot when you’re not the first,” Olson said.