Forty-four-year-old Jason Moeller gambled for the first time at age 11, transforming $20 into $100 in a brother-in-law’s poker game.
At 13, Moeller had no trouble slipping into Wichita Greyhound Park near Wichita to play the dogs. With a middle-school track coach, he won a Superfecta box bet on four dogs and banked $350. In 2017, he began trading Bitcoin. Next came an obsession with online poker to cover losses in the Bitcoin market.
“This is how the chase begins,” Moeller told House members considering a bill legalizing in-person and online sports betting in Kansas. “Out of money, I began opening high-limit credit cards. This is the insidiousness of online gambling and why I firmly stand on a platform of keeping online gambling illegal. Access is unlimited.”
Under the bill before the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, the Kansas Lottery would operate a new system with sports wagering in the state’s four brick-and-mortar casinos, through online apps, the 1,200 lottery retailers and, potentially, a collection of bars and restaurants.
A rival Senate bill would leave the sports betting industry to Kansas operators of the four casinos in Pittsburg, Dodge City, Mulvane and Kansas City, Kan. Supporters of the House bill testified Wednesday, but opposition emerged Thursday from opponents of dog racing and the casinos.
The rival bills in the House and Senate would enable online betting -- a dangerous idea in Moeller’s view.
Kevin Fowler, an attorney speaking on behalf of Kansas Star in Mulvane, Boot Hill in Dodge City and Kansas Crossing in Dodge City, said the casinos supported establishment of legal sports betting in Kansas. Twenty states have taken the plunge, he said.
The proper course is to adopt the Senate’s bill anchoring sports gambling at the four casinos rather than open the regulatory barn door to more than 1,000 businesses operators, he said.
“We’ve been accused in the past of being opposed to everything,” Fowler said. “I’m here to assure the committee we are not.”
Rep. Tory Arnberger, R-Great Bend, responded to Fowler with a point of clarification.
“So,” she said, “essentially you are in favor of sports betting if you strictly have complete control of it?”
Whitney Damron, who lobbies for the Hollywood Casino in Kansas City, Kan., said the sports books should be managed by existing casinos, the tax rate on sports betting revenue must be reasonable and mobile waging needs to be featured. The Kansas Lottery shouldn’t be in the sports gambling business lottery ticket retailers, he said.
“You would have the Kansas Lottery be the owner, the operator, the regulator and the competition on sports wagering,” Damron said.
An official with the Unified Government of Wyandottee County and Kansas City suggested the House tweak the bill so local units of government shared a percentage of revenue on sports bets made inside casinos. Under existing law, certain municipal governments earn 3% of revenue on casino slots, card games and roulette wheels.
A collection of animal welfare organizations opposed to racing dogs insisted the bill not offer incentives for defunct greyhound tracks to reopen by opening a sports book, said Terry Humphrey, of the Humane Society of the United States.
“When the last greyhound racetrack closed in 2008, racetrack gambling revenue had declined by 95%. Over the last 10 years, the country’s disdain for greyhound racing has only galvanized,” she said.
Russell Brien, at attorney with the Prairie Band Potawatomie Nation, said the tribe wold seek to engage in sports betting through whatever format approved by the Kansas Legislature and Gov. Laura Kelly.