A failure to launch by kickoff could cost the Midwestern state and sportsbook operators a considerable amount of revenue.
The launch of legal sports betting in Kansas may not take place in time for the start of the NFL season on September 8.
“There are many things in the air right now,” said Todd Allen, director of wagering at the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission (KRGC), in an email on Friday. “We have not set a go-live date yet.”
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly signed Senate Bill 84 into law in May, which will ultimately allow for in-person and online sports betting in the Midwestern state.
The timing meant it was possible a launch could happen by the start of the National Football League’s regular season, which is crucial for sportsbook operators, but regulators still have plenty of work ahead of them and just weeks left until kickoff.
“The [Kansas Lottery] and our agency have never put forth a go-live date,” Allen told Covers in another interview. “I’ve read a lot of articles on this subject and honestly, we have never thought in terms of a specific date by which the approval process will be completed. There are a lot of processes that have to take place still — and to give a date wouldn’t be fair.”
The Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission was scheduled to discuss and review regulations for sports betting during its meeting last week, but it has yet to approve them. Allen said on Friday that the regulator is now aiming to have draft guidelines before commissioners at its August 12 meeting, which, if given the green light, could allow for the use of temporary regulations.
“Temporary regulations speed up the process, but that process will still take some time,” Allen added. “Internal controls from the operators of our Lottery Gaming Facility managers (Casinos) must be approved. The KRGC also has background investigations that will be done for the interactive sports wagering providers. Once those are finished, our agency will certify them to do business in Kansas.”
Senate Bill 84 requires the director of the Kansas Lottery to set out their licensing process for online sportsbooks by September 1. The director of the KRGC must also lay down the process for background investigations by August 1, and then the regulator must start those investigations by August 15.
Meanwhile, the Kansas Lottery is conducting its own work, Allen noted, such as ironing out contracts with its partners that would allow for sports betting. It is the lottery that must approve sports-betting platforms.
“I’m sure that if we don’t finish the process by opening NFL weekend, there will be disappointment about wagers not being able to take place by then,” Allen said. “But our job is to ensure that a safe and honest product is put in place for bettors.”
Missing any part of the NFL season would mean foregone revenue for both the state and sportsbook operators. Kansas will have a 10% tax on sports-betting revenue.
Still, the Kansas Lottery board, responsible for issuing operating licenses to the sportsbooks, said that while an early September launch is still possible, people should not consider it a sure bet.
“[The process] is moving forward, but the biggest thing for us and everyone is we want the product to be functional, secure, and safe to use. We obviously don’t want it to launch and then go down,” Cory Thone, public information officer for the lottery, told WIBW.
The potential delays could come as a major disappointment to Kansas’s four state-owned casinos — the Boot Hill Casino and Resort, Kansas Star Casino, Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway, and Kansas Crossing Casino and Hotel — which collectively reported $30.3 million in revenues in June, a 9.6% drop from the $33.4 million they earned in May.
The work still ahead of regulators means casinos could miss out on what may be the biggest September yet in terms of anticipated NFL betting action.
Meanwhile, sportsbooks have already struck major alliances with the state’s four non-tribal casinos, which are permitted under the Kansas betting legislation to partner with up to three sports betting operators, meaning there could be as many as 12 online sportsbooks operating in Kansas by the end of this year.
As of today, eight major sportsbooks have formed alliances with the state-owned casinos in anticipation of license applications that will be made as soon as the draft regulations are in place. Some of the major partnerships include:
Last week, Barstool was also announced as a sponsor of the September 11 NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway. Their in-state betting partner, Hollywood Casino, is adjacent to the track and is planning to launch a temporary retail sportsbook in time for the race.
-with files from Geoff Zochodne
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