Legislators in Kansas and Missouri are taking a hard look this summer at how their states might offer sports gambling.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court authorized states to allow such wagering. The decision came too late for Kansas or Missouri lawmakers to act in 2018, but gambling supporters want to be ready when legislators reconvene in January.
The discussions in both states are encouraging and necessary. Legalized sports gambling could provide the states with millions of dollars for needed programs or tax relief for lower-income workers. Legislators should spend the summer recess studying the issues involved.
Different models for state-based sports gambling are now emerging. Without a thorough review — and the proper framework — the debate over sports gaming could get bogged down next year, slowing progress and costing the state revenue.
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The specifics of sports gambling in Kansas and Missouri will be worked out in the months ahead. At the same time, there are concepts both states should embrace as they put together their sports gambling legislation.
The states should regulate sports gambling, but they should not provide it. Lotteries are generally state-owned and operated; by contrast, most casinos are private companies licensed by the state (Kansas is an exception: It owns the state's non-Native American casinos.)
Neither state should offer sports gambling directly. State administrators lack expertise in sports wagering, and the state shouldn't be in that business anyway. Let private companies take the bets.
At the same time, both states must have strict oversight of sports gaming, including programs for those struggling with gambling addiction. The states may also wish to consider some regulatory limit on how much money a gambler can wager on any one sporting event.
And, of course, both states should tax sports gambling. Nevada, which allows sports wagering, collects a 6.75 percent tax on most gross gaming revenue. In New Jersey, it's 8.5 percent for in-person sports betting. West Virginia wants to levy a 10 percent tax on sports gaming.
Kansas and Missouri may want to charge more than that for sports bets — but not too much more, or gaming operators will avoid our states.
Sports gambling facilities should be limited, but not just to casinos. Neither state wants a legal sports book on every corner. But limiting gaming to existing casinos will make it harder for some bettors to gamble, reducing state revenue. Lawmakers will need to fully understand this issue.
One answer might be online wagering. Betting online is a complicated issue, and it could escalate gambling addiction. But other states will offer it. That could cut into the state's take.
Sports leagues should not expect a windfall from gambling. Some leagues are already pressuring states to set aside some money for teams. Kansas and Missouri should resist anything other than a token payment — teams and players make plenty of money.
Other states are moving forward with sports gambling. It's possible Congress will inject itself into this discussion, further complicating the issue.
These developments, and others, suggest Kansas and Missouri should move as quickly as possible in 2019 to begin sports gaming. That means reaching some consensus this year on how sports gambling would work.