Archive for Thursday, May 3, 2007

Casino review procedures OK’d

May 3, 2007

TOPEKA -- Let the games begin.

With little fanfare, state officials Wednesday approved a procedure to accept and review applications for four new casinos in Kansas.

The eight-page document OK'd unanimously by the Kansas Lottery Commission during a telephone-conference meeting, will kick off a flurry of activity over the next few months.

Elections to allow casino gambling have already been set for June in Cherokee County in southeast Kansas, and Ford County in southwest Kansas, and in August in Sedgwick County.

"We're on a steep learning curve," Lottery Executive Director Ed Van Petten said.

In March, the Legislature approved allowing destination casinos in Wyandotte County, southeast Kansas and southcentral Kansas that will require a minimum of $225 million in investment. A fourth in Ford County must have a $50 million investment.

If voters favor casinos in the local elections, then casino applicants will have 90 days to submit proposals to the Lottery Commission. The commission will then have 90 days to make recommendations to another review board, although that deadline could be extended by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Van Petten said Sebelius has told him that if more time is needed, she will grant extensions. "She would rather have it done right than done quick," he said.

Van Petten said the casinos could be operating in two years to three years. The new legislation also allows slot machines at pari-mutuel tracks, which he said could be in place by the start of 2008.

He said since the Legislature approved the bill there has been a lot of interest in the process of picking casino operators.

"There seems to be more interest in Wyandotte County; obviously it's closer to the most population," he said.

But the process could be derailed by legal action.

Currently, there are four casinos in Kansas owned and operated by Native American tribes and allowed by federal law.

The Prairie Band Potawatomi, which operates the largest of those casinos, said the new bill violates the Kansas Constitution's requirement that the state must own and operate its gambling enterprises. State officials claim the proposed casinos comply with the constitution because while the casinos will have private management they will be overseen by the state.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.