TOPEKA – Mobile platforms for legal sports gambling in Kansas proved so enticing that more than 16,000 people in Missouri tried to place bets in the first weekend of live betting.
As those cross-border residents, many of whom were located in Kansas City, Missouri, discovered, the gambling law enacted by Kansas required a person to be somewhere within the state’s 82,000-square-mile domain in order to place a bet online. Geofencing technology is in place to create a virtual perimeter that blocks out-of-state persons from participating in the state’s legal sports gambling.
“It’s so sophisticated that it knows exactly where you are across the country,” said Stephen Durrell, executive director of the Kansas Lottery. “We had a guy who’s on State Line Road on the Kansas side and he called and said, ‘I’m having trouble betting.’ He says, ‘I can only bet if I go to the backyard where I’m away from the State Line. Road.’ “
Durrell said early returns showed sports betting was the most popular entry game option since the arrival of the Kansas Lottery. It is assumed that most bets in Kansas would be placed online rather than by individuals present at the casino.
“It seems like, you know, betting is a very healthy business right now in the state,” Durrell said.
On Sept. 1, Kansas joined a growing list of states trying to get a piece of the sports gambling pie. It took years of political wrangling in the Kansas Legislature, but the state created a framework for sports betting — both through in-person operations and remote sports betting apps — at the state’s four casinos in Dodge City, Mulvane, Pittsburg and Kansas City, Kansas. Tribal casinos located within the Kansas border are expected to participate after new contracts with the state are finalized.
The sports betting business started with state casinos joining forces with DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars Sportsbook, Barstool Sportsbook, Points Bet and BetMGM.
BetMGM was the first to form a multi-year partnership with the Kansas City Chiefs, expected to be among the biggest gambling targets in Kansas. The bill signed into law by Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, who bet the Chiefs with the state’s first official bet, called for a portion of state revenue to be set aside to help attract a professional sports franchise to Kansas. The idea was to gamble on the slim chance that the franchise would move across the border.
“With a rich history and a passionate fan base, the Kansas City Chiefs are an ideal partner,” said Matt Prevost, BetMGM’s chief revenue officer.
Durrell said on the Kansas Reflector podcast that there was broad interest in Kansas sports betting, but it would take time to clarify the financial implications of the reform. Casinos and their partners began by offering a variety of financial incentives in one area to develop brand loyalty, and those bets must be selected to get a better picture of the Kansas sports gambling footprint.
He said pro football, baseball, basketball and hockey would attract a lot of betting interest in Kansas along with college football and basketball. There will be an international component to betting, he said, involving people dedicated enough to watch their favorite teams in the middle of the night.
“There are other people out there who really want to bet on other things, and they find it fun,” Durrell said.
He said the arrival of legal sports gambling in Kansas would not eradicate the illegal forms that have existed for years. It should crack down on illegal gambling because a government-regulated system offered gamblers greater certainty that their winnings would be paid out, he said.
“There is no reasonable way that illegal gaming will disappear completely,” the state lottery director said.
Under state law, the four state casinos in Kansas can participate in both in-person sportsbooks and mobile sports betting through a maximum of three apps. Each casino will also be allowed to form partnerships with businesses and non-profit organizations.
So far, Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane offer in-person and mobile sports betting options. Hollywood Casino was affiliated with Barstool Sports, while Kansas Star was affiliated with FanDuel.
Kansas Crossing Casino in Pittsburgh decided to offer mobile sports betting with BetMGM, Ceasars and PointsBet. Boot Hill Casino and Resort in Dodge City chose DraftKings for online betting. The Pittsburgh and Dodge City casinos are expected to open in-person betting locations within weeks.