Ready or not, here comes Kansas sports betting.
After much hemming and hawing on the timeline of the rollout and what it would look like, sports betting in Kansas will officially become a reality in September 2022. Starting on the first of the month, patrons will be able to bet on sports at any of the state-owned casinos.
Officials in the state are calling this a "soft rollout," per the Lexington Herald Leader. Initially, Kansas wanted to license three sportsbooks in time for the 2022 NFL season. However, due to a few regulatory hiccups, it looked like they were going to miss that timeline.
Only recently did the tenor inside the state change. And now, failing any last-minute snafus, there will actually be four casinos licensed to accept sports bets before the 2022 NFL regular season even kicks off.
This is great news for sports gambling enthusiasts. But a couple of larger questions remain: Are there any limitations of Kansas sports betting? When will the full rollout be complete? And what will that full rollout for Kansas sports betting look like?
How will the Kansas Sports Betting Soft Rollout Work?
While the arrival of Kansas sports betting is no doubt exciting, it also isn't perfect.
Tribal casinos throughout the state remain unhappy that they won't have their licenses ready post-Labor Day, when betting on college football and betting on the NFL become a collective mania. Kansas prioritized getting the state-owned operations ready first, because they wanted to troubleshoot their systems before green lighting the involvement of tribal casinos.
In theory, this logic is understandable. In practice, however, it has been imperfect. The state has yet to give tribal casinos a timeline for when they can start accepting sports bets. The only direction given is that these establishments will be licensed "as soon as they are ready," per the Lexington Herald Leader. This ambiguous language has led many to wonder whether it could be months before any casino other than the four owned and operated by Kansas will take in wagers.
Complicating matters even further, people in Kansas aren't technically allowed to place bets with any digital properties. This includes the sites that have made our list of the top online sportsbooks. Customers are currently only permitted to use select betting apps when they're on-site at one of the state's own four casinos or at 50 select locations chosen by those casinos.
This has rankled online sportsbooks who want to crack the Kansas market. It is also proving to be a nuisance to actual bettors. Multiple studies show that more than 80 percent of sports betting now takes place online or via a mobile device rather than on-site. People are no longer inclined to just visit casinos. They prefer the ease and accessibility of doing everything on the go or remotely. Those pushing for Kansas to accelerate the rollout process are arguing that the state will invariably leave millions to tens of millions of dollars on the table by driving bettors toward offshore sportsbooks.
What will the Full Implementation of Sports Betting Look Like?
Asking this question spurs even more frustration, mostly because Kansas has not provided any definitive answers.
Despite signing sports betting into law sometime during the spring and having state-owned casinos ready to take bets, Kansas remains non-committal on when they will expand the scope of their offerings. Even after all this time, they continue to cite "several regulatory and administrative hurdles" that are preventing sports betting in Kansas from becoming a full-blown reality.
Cynics tend to believe this is the state's attempt to drive business towards their own casinos. Perhaps that's true. But as officials from the Gaming Commission will be quick to point out, Kansas has only awarded one-year provisional licenses to the casinos and their sportsbooks. Instead, officials say, this is purely a matter of displaying extra caution and ensuring that there are no long-term hang-ups before making Kansas sports betting a wider reality.
There's some merit to this stance. The state has, after all, taken the same approach with its lottery system. But even if you give them the benefit of the doubt, it's tough to reconcile the absence of any uniform timeline.
So...When will the Kansas Sports Betting Soft Rollout End?
Once more, it's tough to provide an answer. There is very little information, on the record, about Kansas' intent. And what's actually on the record doesn't clue us in at all.
Part of the delay appears to be the state's pursuit of the Kansas City Chiefs NFL franchise. Though they are the most popular team among fans in the state, they don't actually play in the state; they're based out of Kansas, Missouri.
The state of Kansas has hoped all along to structure its sports betting laws in such a way that it drives interest and business through the roof and entices Kansas City to relocate. This attempt at poaching a multi-billion dollar NFL franchise, while admirable on many levels, has incited a dynamic in which there are too many cooks in the kitchen—too many people giving their input and stepping on each other's toes and slowing down various processes.
Given what's transpired so far, Kansas sports bettors should count themselves lucky if they have all-out access to online gambling before the end of 2022. Because, right now, it sure looks like Kansas online sports betting will remain in limbo until at least the start of 2023.
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