New York Times investigation shows how sports gambling industry exploited Kansas legislators

After the law took effect in September, Kansans wagered $350 million in the first two months — yielding just $271,000 in tax revenue.

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State News

November 25, 2022 - 1:39 PM

Rep. John Barker, an Abilene Republican who spearheaded legislation to the benefit of the sports gambling industry, appears during April 27, 2022, negotiations between the House and Senate. Photo by (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — A New York Times investigation into the gambling industry’s bare-knuckled lobbying efforts provides insight into concessions Kansas lawmakers provided when they legalized sports betting earlier this year.

Among the revelations from the report, published Sunday as part of a series on “a relentless nationwide campaign” to expand sports betting: Kansas lawmakers slashed an already generous tax rate from 20% to 10%, and exempted some bets from being taxed at all, before passing the sports gambling package after midnight in the final hours of the legislative session.

The final vote came two days after a lobbying event that promised “something for everyone.” There, the New York Times documented how Rep. John Barker, an Abilene Republican who helped orchestrate the sports gambling package, reveled in 30-year-old Irish whiskey while Sen. Jeff Pittman, a Leavenworth Democrat, secured an extra bag of pricey Honduras cigars. At the party, Pittman called it a “terrible” bill, but he voted in favor it anyway.

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