Kansas Poker, Gambling & Betting Laws

An Overview of the Gambling Laws in the State Of Kansas

There is a rich history of gambling in Kansas that starts with games of Hazard and Monte played by the cattle drivers, and smoky gambling dens in Dodge City. After a long stretch of prohibition, things got moving in the 1980’s and 1990’s with racing, tribal casinos and lottery games. In many ways Kansas is on the strict side when it comes to defining illegal gambling. However, residents do have plenty of gaming opportunities in the various licensed establishments. This page takes a detailed look at the Kansas gambling laws.

You can get an overview of how we got to the current situation first below – with my brief history of gambling in the Sunflower State. After that you can find a list of the most common gambling formats, along with information on their current legal status. Things get more detailed next, with the important excerpts from the Statutes, plus a legal timeline. Finally a summary and look at the possible future direction of Kansas gambling legislation.


Kansas Gambling Laws – A Brief History

The saloons of Dodge City were dangerous places in the 19th century, and gambling was just one of many vices enjoyed there. This was not the first gambling in Kansas territory, in fact the native Indian tribes enjoyed gambling type games for centuries. The cowboys driving cattle down to Texas also had their own favorite gambling pastimes, including Hazard, a dice game which was a predecessor of today’s craps.

As we entered the 20th century, the gambling in Kansas had all but ceased – at least that which was visible to the authorities. Slots were banned early, and the prohibition era saw even limited gambling on races at County fairs considered immoral and outlawed.

The first things to be legalized according to the KS code were charity gambling and social games, which were relaxed in 1974. Twelve years later saw a double-bill for gamblers with pari-mutuel wagering on horse races (at approved tracks) licensed, and the setup of the popular State lottery. The lottery is now hugely popular and cross-State games like Powerball increase the payouts still more.

The tribes got in on the gambling action in 1995, when a deal was reached that would see 4 of them start lavish casino building projects on their own land. This resulted in all 4 opening over the next few years, providing the backbone of Kansas casino gaming to this day.

More recent developments have not been so gambling friendly. In 2009 a legal study of the Kansas Attorney General’s opinion was that internet gambling is covered by the current laws. Then in 2013 a bill outlawing online gambling made it as far as a vote in the Senate, where it was fortunately defeated.

The one silver lining in these dark clouds for residents is that gambling busts are extremely rare in this State. It seems there is little appetite to expand the offerings, though little appetite for strict enforcement at the same time.


What Forms Of Gambling Are Currently Legal?

Casino Games: Yes, there are both land based and tribal casinos that offer a wide range of slots, video poker and table games.

Online Casinos: No, there is nothing in the State legislature mentioning online gambling. However an opinion from the Attorney General in 2009 clearly states that he believes the current laws to cover internet gambling in within their current format.

Live Poker Games: Yes, you can enjoy live poker games at many of the licensed casinos. Home games are not expressly permitted under Kansas law – however penalties under law are very mild for small stakes games and there is no history of this type of game being busted.

Online Poker: No, there seems to be very little appetite towards legalizing online poker games in this State, with one bill being soundly voted down in the Senate already.

Sports Betting: Limited pari-mutuel betting is allowed on track.

Lottery Betting: Yes, Kansas has a popular lottery and do participate in the inter-State pooled games too. Tellingly, you can’t buy lottery tickets online in this State.

Bingo Games: Yes, very limited charity bingo games are permitted here, though each will need to be individually licensed.


Kansas Gambling Laws – Timeline and Key Statutes

Like many States, Kansas outlaw the ‘bet’ part of a gambling transaction, this makes it difficult to get a carve-out for skill games (including poker) which are a mixture of skill and betting. Here is the exact definition of from the State laws:

“21-4302. Gambling; definitions.

“Bet” means a bargain in which the parties agree that, dependent upon chance, one stands to win or lose something of value specified in the agreement.

There are then exceptions listed for certain skill or endurance tests, and the forms of gambling which have already been carved out under their own amendments including lottery, bingo, pari-mutuel betting and tribal gaming.

1974: Bingo legalized for non-profit organizations under strict licenses. In 1995 this law was amended to include ‘instant bingo’ games, and in 2000 bingo regulation was transferred under the power of a new position, the Administrator of Charitable Gambling. The penalties for small time players in gambling games are mild – with a class B misdemeanor the most common. Felony charges await those organizing the games or profiteering from them.

1986: The Kansas State Lottery becomes legal after an amendment to the constitution, and one year later a new State Agency ‘the Kansas Lottery’ to operate this. Today the lottery is one of the most popular forms of gambling in the State and some huge jackpots have already been paid. 30% of the monthly revenue goes to good causes.

1986: The same year, pari-mutuel wagering on horse and dog racing is given the green-light. There are currently two racetracks, which are strictly monitored by the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission and the State Gaming Agency. Simulcast wagering on live races from other States was introduced in 1992.

1995: Compacts were agreed with the 4 native tribes to allow class 3 gaming which includes slot machines, casino table games and poker. All 4 tribes opened casinos between 1996 and 1998. These facilities are regulated by the State Gaming Agency.

2009: Attorney General’s clarification that the standing Kansas laws show that gambling on the internet is considered to be illegal is published, here is an excerpt:

There is no express internet prohibition but an Attorney General Opinion does provide that clearly, placing, receiving or forwarding a bet, or conducting a lottery, over the telephone or the Internet is illegal…

2013: Gambling losses are no longer tax deductible in Kansas. This is actually a big blow for professional gamblers, who need to lay many bets to make a profit. Their winnings are still very much in line to be taxed!

2013: A new bill looking to expand land-based casinos and ban outright gambling online fails in the Kansas Senate. This bill would also have banned slot machines from the Kansas racetracks until 2032.


Kansas Gambling Laws – Summary and a Look at the Future

This State is not the worst place to live if you enjoy gambling, with a good selection of casinos which include poker-rooms. The definition covering betting is very broad, leading to easy interpretations that anything not specifically legal under the current code is outlawed – including internet poker and gambling in the opinion of the Attorney General.

I would not expect Kansas to be among early adopters of regulated online gambling. If anything recent bills have been more anti-gambling than loosening the laws. Once there are enough States enjoying a steady revenue stream from the online games, maybe Kansas will have another look.


Useful Resources:

Gaming Regulations

Gambling Law Masters – Attorney General Opinion

Losses no longer tax deductible

History Site

Gambling-Law-US

Kansas State Gaming Agency