Archive for Thursday, March 15, 2007

House committee to study gambling bills

March 15, 2007

A key state legislator Thursday upped the ante on casino gambling by offering a bill to allow casinos and lower property taxes.

"Good times have come back and we need to start sharing those revenues again," said state Rep. Arlen Siegfreid, R-Olathe, chairman of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee. Siegfreid's committee started hearings Friday on various proposals to expand gambling in Kansas.

Last Thursday, House bills 2568 and 2569 were sent to his committee for consideration.

The bills essentially would set up a commission that would develop large destination casinos. The casinos could be built only after voter approval in the home and adjacent counties.

Currently, casino-style gambling is only allowed at four American Indian casinos in northeast Kansas from which the state receives no revenue.

Under Siegfreid's plan, some of the revenue from the proposed destination casinos would go into a fund to reduce local property taxes by $75 million per year.

"One of the problems we have had in the state of Kansas (is) property taxes are just relentlessly going up," he said.

But his proposal would not allow slots at existing pari-mutuel horse and dog tracks.

"These are private businesses. It should not be the state's position to prop up private business," he said.

Wichita Greyhound Park and The Woodlands in Kansas City, Kan., have been struggling for years and have asked to be allowed to put slots at the tracks.

Siegfreid said his bill wouldn't prohibit tracks from bidding to develop a destination casino.

The Federal and State Affairs Committee had an informational hearing Tuesday and then will convene for at least three days of hearings next week on gambling bills.

House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said he wants to have a thorough airing of the issue.

"For the first time in a long time there are going to be actually extensive hearings on the gambling issue to try to ferret out what the people actually want to support," Neufeld said.

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