Sports betting was made officially legal in Kansas on May 12th, only for state authorities to be almost immediately taken to court by the operator of a state-owned casino that would be allowed to offer the new form of gambling under an unrelated part of the law aimed at bringing new life to a long-inoperable greyhound racetrack in the same area.
The Governor of the state, Laura Kelly, laid her signature under a bill that was passed with bipartisan support by the local Legislature. There has been some uncertainty regarding the fate of sports betting before that but the new form of gambling was eventually brought to Kansas.
The legal action was filed in Shawnee County District Court in Topeka by the Kansas Star Casino, which is operated by Boyd Gaming under a contract with the Kansas Lottery that is set to expire in 2026.
In its lawsuit, the casino operator argues that the aforementioned deal, which states that no competition from similar facilities in the Wichita area will be permitted, is being breached by the state. The ongoing disagreement is over a provision allowing new gambling devices at Wichita Greyhound Park which started operation in 1989 but experienced financial trouble and ceased operation in 2007. The casino started operation in 2011.
Historic Horse Racing Machines Should Not Be Allowed, Casino Operator Claims
Under the new piece of legislation, local residents will be able to place wagers on sports events in person at each of the 4 state-owned casino venues or at about 50 other locations chosen by each casino operator. Making sports bets online, through mobile apps will also be available.
The legalization of sports betting in Kansas came 4 years after the US Supreme Court decided to eliminate a federal ban under which sports betting services were banned in almost all US states. The new sports betting law would dedicate most of the state’s share of gambling revenues to fund its effort to lure the Kansas City Chiefs into the state.
The devices involved in the ongoing legal dispute are known as historic horse racing machines. Under the provisions of the new law, the greyhound racetrack will be able to place 1,000 of them. The machines replay parts of previously held horse races, with results determining what a bettor wins. Although they pretty much look like slot machines and Boyd Gaming claims that they are practically indistinguishable, historic horse racing machines are not slots. According to the gambling operator, the state is not allowed to let the greyhound racetrack feature such machines.
Despite the ongoing lawsuit, Boyd Gaming said it supports the offering of legal sports betting services in Kansas.
Stephen Durrell, the Executive Director of the Kansas Lottery, said that he was not aware of the legal action and could not provide any details about it. However, state Representative John Barker confirmed there was a difference of opinion when it comes to the historic horse racing machines and their resemblance to slots, so everyone will simply have to wait for the ruling of the Kansas Supreme Court.