Archive for Thursday, April 12, 2007

Foes spot expansion loophole in gambling bill

April 12, 2007

As Gov. Kathleen Sebelius prepares to sign into law the casino and slots bill, opponents of the legislation said Monday that it may contain hidden provisions to expand gambling even further.

Glenn Thompson, executive director of the anti-gambling group Stand Up for Kansas, said that under the bill, future Legislatures could put video slot machines in convenience stores, grocery stores and other places without having to get voters' approval.

"They could use this question later to place machines at locations other than racetracks," Thompson said.

Thompson is referring to a part of the bill that calls for a vote in counties that can have state-owned casinos, slots at pari-mutuel tracks or both.

In those counties, voters must approve resolutions before expanded gambling can be established.

For example, Wyandotte County voters can decide whether to have a casino, slots or both at The Woodlands horse and dog track. To have slots at The Woodlands, voters will be asked: "Shall the Kansas Lottery be authorized to place electronic gaming machines in Wyandotte County?"

Thompson says if Wyandotte County voters approve that resolution, lawmakers could in future years rewrite the gambling law to say those machines can be placed in other locations, such as convenience stores, and there would be no need for an election because the voters already would have decided.

"The whole bill is very deceptive," Thompson said.

Ed Van Petten, executive director of the Kansas Lottery, which would be in charge of the games, said Thompson is correct in theory but not in practicality.

"It could happen that way, but historically I don't think there has been any gaming issue for any kind of expansion that hasn't required voter approval," he said. "The Legislature has shied away from expanding gaming without getting local approval."

Sebelius toured the state Wednesday to sign the bill into law.

Sebelius has called the measure a "responsible expansion" because of the local option voter requirement.

"The people of Kansas will finally have a chance to decide for themselves whether to allow expanded gaming," Sebelius said.

She signed the bill at four news conferences in areas that under the bill could add state-owned casinos and resorts, and video slot machines at tracks.

Sebelius conducted ceremonies at Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita, Dodge City Regional Airport, The Woodlands horse and dog track in Kansas City, Kan., and Cherokee County Courthouse in Columbus.

The law will become effective when it is printed in the Kansas Register in the next several weeks.

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