TOPEKA — Allowing a second vote on slots at the Wichita Greyhound Park could jeopardize the 800 or 900 jobs a Mulvane casino is expected to create, a Sumner County official told lawmakers Tuesday.
“We want those jobs. We need those jobs. Our rural communities are suffering greatly,” said Janis Hellard, director of the Sumner County Economic Development Commission.
Her comments came during testimony on Senate Bill 401 before the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee.
In addition to allowing a second vote in Sedgwick County, the bill would let racetrack owners keep a larger portion of slots revenue. Supporters have touted it as a way to help create jobs in Kansas.
But Hellard said it could jeopardize the 800 to 900 jobs expected to be generated by the planned Chisholm Creek Casino Resort proposed near Mulvane.
Negotiations between the state and casino developers have been under way for two months, with developers voicing concern about competition from a possible tribal casino proposed for Park City.
If lawmakers approved the proposed changes to the state’s gaming laws, voters in Sedgwick County could vote again on slots only if a petition with signatures from 5,000 county voters were submitted.
Putting the question on the ballot again would just tell Sedgwick County voters that their vote did not count, Hellard said.
She and others rejected the idea that voters were confused by the ballot question last time.
But Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D- Wichita, who sits on the committee and supports the measure, said she had heard from many people who were confused by the original ballot question.
In 2007, voters rejected slots at the Wichita track by 244 votes out of more than 103,000 cast. At the same time, they rejected a casino in Sedgwick County by more than 12,000 votes.
The greyhound track later closed.
About 300 people — includ-ing some in her district — lost their jobs, Faust-Goudeau said. She wants to see those jobs return.
She also worried about the precedent that would be set if a revote were not allowed.
Others said a revote was unlikely to make a difference.
“Sedgwick County has a rich tradition of opposing expanded gambling in our county,” said Mark Kahrs, chairman for Stand Up for Kansas, a statewide organization that opposes expanded gambling.
He called the bill an industry bailout and said greyhound racing nationwide has decreased 42 percent over five years.
Representatives and supporters of the proposed northeast casino, which would be built near the Kansas Speedway in Wyandotte County, also spoke against the measure. They worried that reopening the gaming question would endanger the project.
The committee did not act on the bill.