Category Archives: gambling

Bill banning slots vote was unnecessary, overkill

slotsThe Kansas House wisely rejected a Senate bill Friday that would prohibit Sedgwick County from holding another vote on gambling until 2032. The bill was unnecessary and overkill, as the Legislature already controls whether county residents can revote on allowing slot machines at Wichita Greyhound Park. There is no need to ban another vote for 18 years. The bill also sends the message that lawmakers don’t care what locals think, now or in the future.

How can renewable-energy supporters compete with Kochs?

turbinewindmillSenate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, argued Tuesday that a bill blocking another gambling vote in Sedgwick County for 18 years was needed because opponents of expanded gaming have difficulty competing with the resources of casino owner Phil Ruffin. “He spends a lot of money on influencing legislators,” Wagle said. But just a few hours later, the Senate approved a bill revoking the state’s renewable portfolio standard. The standard has helped generate billions of dollars of investment in Kansas and is overwhelmingly supported by the public, according to a recent survey. But the standard is opposed by the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity and Kansas Chamber of Commerce, which spent more than a million dollars last election purging moderates from the state Senate. How can supporters of renewable energy, which includes faith groups, compete with those resources?

Kansas led nation in growth in gambling revenue

Casino gaming revenue grew faster in Kansas last year than in any other state in the nation, according to a report by the American Gaming Association. Kansas gambling revenue in 2012 was $341 million, a whopping 603.7 percent increase from $48 million in 2011. The big reason for the spike was the opening of the Kansas Star Casino near Mulvane. The casino is still pulling in money, earning $17.2 million in gambling revenue in April (though that’s down from the record $19 million it earned in March).

Welcome ruling on unwelcome tribal casino

It was a relief to see U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson refuse Wednesday to order the federal government to accept into trust the Park City site where the Wyandotte Nation wants to build a casino. Now the Interior Department will decide whether the 10.5 acres, which are unconnected to the tribe’s history and far from its reservation in Oklahoma, can be considered tribal lands and therefore available for tribal gaming. The judge’s decision is another important roadblock to a tribal casino, which would be at odds with the 2007 Sedgwick County vote against casino gaming and also would be untaxed and largely unregulated.

Follow legislative intent on problem gambling

When the 2007 Legislature made the controversial decision to allow state-owned destination casinos, it built in a social safeguard that even gambling opponents should have been able to support: a requirement that 2 percent of the gambling revenue from those casinos go to the Problem Gambling and Addictions Grant Fund. So it’s inexplicable that the state has allocated only 9 percent of that 2 percent to help problem gamblers so far, according to testimony heard recently by the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, and that Gov. Sam Brownback’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal appears to entirely eliminate funds to treat problem gambling. It’s a further concern that $6.5 million of the $9 million generated for the fund so far went to Medicaid for services for other addictions. Legislative intent was clear, and a recent poll showed strong public support for using public funds to make problem-gambling treatment available and affordable. The Brownback administration needs to keep that promise.

Mulvane property owners hitting the jackpot

When Sumner County voters approved the idea of a destination casino way back in December 2005, one of the strongest arguments was its potential to lower property taxes. Just seven months after the Kansas Star Casino opened, that’s about to happen in Mulvane. City Administrator Kent Hixson has included a 10 percent cut in the property-tax mill levy in his 2013 budget proposal, along with a 5 percent cut in city electric rates in the current year. The city, which receives 1 percent of gross revenue from the casino, already has received $844,000 and is making improvements to its water and emergency response systems.

Poll shows strong support for slots at track

Wichita Greyhound Park owner Phil Ruffin wants a do-over of the 2007 Sedgwick County vote that narrowly rejected slot machines at the facility and led to its closing. If a bill to authorize another vote could get past the Legislature and anti-gaming Gov. Sam Brownback – a big “if” – and if proponents could round up 5,000 petition signatures and get it on a ballot, the issue would have better luck this time, judging from a new SurveyUSA poll sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12. In the survey, 71 percent of the 500 people polled in Sedgwick County said they supported allowing slots at the track. The strongest support, 80 percent, came from 18- through 34-year-olds.

Job seekers endorsing Mulvane casino

When 63 percent of Sumner County voters favored a casino in an advisory vote in late 2005, for the jobs and economic development it could bring, the county’s unemployment rate was just 5.2 percent. Few could have imagined then the recession ahead, or that by last month the county’s unemployment rate would be 7.6 percent. Consider the 4,000 employment applications submitted to Peninsula Gaming as a kind of second endorsement. They confirm that the up to 575 jobs available for the first phase of the Kansas Star Casino near Mulvane are well-timed and much-needed in the county, especially with the average salary estimated at $38,000.

Casino is coming; move on

Good for the Kansas House for rejecting — albeit narrowly — a resolution ordering the attorney general to go to court to challenge the state’s approval of the Kansas Star casino in Mulvane. Though many people still oppose the casino and have understandable concerns about a campaign-finance case against casino officials that is pending in Iowa, there is no basis for such a lawsuit. As state Rep. Rep. Vince Wetta, D-Wellington — a strong opponent of building the casino at the Mulvane exit — acknowledged, the casino is coming, like it or not, and it’s time to move on.

Revoke casino exemption, not entire smoking ban

There is no question that the state’s public smoking ban is hypocritical in exempting state-owned casinos. Lawmakers should revoke that exemption and make the law apply equally to all businesses. But there is reason for concern about a House bill to do that, because some lawmakers may try to amend the bill on the House floor to revoke the entire smoking ban. That would be harmful to the health of citizens and against the wishes of an overwhelming majority of the public. The full House should not let that happen.

Stop fighting casinos; move on

Don’t state lawmakers have more pressing things to do than keep fighting casinos? Yet a House committee advanced a resolution Tuesday requiring the attorney general to sue over the state awarding the Sumner County casino contract to Peninsula Gaming — even though the state went through a thorough process of evaluating and selecting Peninsula. Some lawmakers still don’t like that the state can own casinos. But it’s time to move on.

Parkinson against Park City casino

slotsGood for Gov. Mark Parkinson for laying out his opposition to a tribal casino in Park City. In a letter this month to Larry Echo Hawk, assistant secretary of Indian affairs for the Obama administration, Parkinson seconded Attorney General Steve Six’s position that, as the governor wrote, “if the Wyandotte Nation were permitted to build a gaming facility on the Park City land, the will of the people of Sedgwick County, Kan., would be frustrated.” Parkinson also argued that such a tribal casino would reduce tax revenue from the state-owned casino to be built in Sumner County. Earlier this month, Parkinson notified the tribe that the state will enter negotiations for a Class III Gaming facility in Wyandotte County. But the governor’s letter sends the welcome signal that the state doesn’t view a Wyandotte County deal as clearing the way for a Park City deal.

Is third time the charm on casino?

gamblingSumner County has seen enough casino proposals that it has learned not to get too excited by fancy artist renderings and developer promises. Still, the third time may finally be the charm in selecting a developer that won’t pull out. One of the developers is Harrah’s, which two years ago won the bid to build and operate a state-owned casino, then backed out when the economy fell apart. But Harrah’s and the other two developers appear committed to the project this time. Of course, that’s what we thought before.

Casinos will fight smoking ban

smoking2There has been a lot of well-deserved criticism of the Legislature’s decision to exempt state-owned casinos from the new indoor smoking ban. But legislators who want to bar gamblers from smoking will face resistance from the casino operators. During a Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission this month, representatives of the Boot Hill Casino and Resort in Dodge City and the planned Wyandotte County casino warned that gamblers will stay away. “Once you eliminate smoking in a casino, you see a 30 to 35 percent drop in revenue,” said Marty Naumann, vice president of operations for Kansas Entertainment, which is building a casino near the Kansas Speedway. In addition, Boot Hill reportedly spent $1 million on an air-filtration system to mitigate the smoke.

Casino withdrawal may be just as well

casinosumnerThe decision Friday by Chisholm Creek Casino Resort to withdraw its proposal for a Sumner County casino will hurt the state’s budget but may be just as well in the long run. The state’s casino review board had grown increasingly frustrated with Chisholm Creek for delaying and scaling back the project. The group’s latest request for another delay — which Gov. Mark Parkinson denied Thursday — was based on a concern that the Legislature might vote to allow slots at the Wichita Greyhound Park, which isn’t going to happen. What’s more, the developers’ our-way-or-else attitude raised red flags. As review board member Jim Bergfalk said after Chisholm Creek threatened to pull out if it didn’t get its way, “If you spend five years negotiating a prenuptial, you probably shouldn’t get married.”

Not all yearning to breathe freely at casinos

smoking2Maybe Kansans just think gambling and smoking go together. Only 20 percent of Kansans smoke. Yet 49 percent of those Kansans surveyed in a new SurveyUSA poll, co-sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12, said that smoking should be allowed at the state’s new casinos. Interestingly, the question opened up a sizable gender gap, with 60 percent of men advocating casino smoking, compared with just 38 percent of women.

Casino choice made easy

gamblingA few days after one developer dropped out, the two others vying to build a Sumner County casino spared state officials from having to choose between Mulvane and Wellington, coming together on the Chisholm Creek Casino Resort at the Mulvane exit of the Kansas Turnpike. Lakes Entertainment joined Foxwoods Development in the Mulvane proposal, effectively ending Wellington’s long-held dream of being home to the casino and its economic development. That’s tough. But all of Sumner County will see revenues, jobs and other benefits from the casino (as well as some negatives, it should be said), and the casino’s best chances of success have always seemed to be in Mulvane. Of course, after 2½ years of big announcements followed by scrapped plans, many will believe in a Sumner County casino resort only when they see it.

No surprise about more casino proposals

gambling3Gambling opponents may have cheered last year when Harrah’s Entertainment dropped its plan build a casino at the Mulvane exit of the Kansas Turnpike. But even with the poor economy, it seemed inevitable that a casino would be built in Sumner County, because the Wichita area offers a large market for expanded gambling. So it wasn’t surprising that three groups submitted casino proposals to the state last week. Nor was it surprising that the Mulvane location, and not Wellington, received the most focus, given its proximity to Wichita.

Wichitans still flocking to Vegas

Funny how Sedgwick County voters last year nixed casino gambling and even slot machines at the now-defunct greyhound track, yet Las Vegas remains the top destination for Wichita Mid-Continent Airport users. That’s according to an assessment by Sabre Airline Solutions of the Mid-Continent market for the 12 months ending in March 2008; rounding out the top five destinations were Atlanta, Chicago, Orlando and Phoenix.
Apparently, area travelers want to gamble, just not where they live. Any bets on whether Las Vegas will slip out of Mid-Continent’s No. 1 spot when Sumner County gets its destination casino?

Odds favored Mulvane casino site

It wasn’t a surprise that the state’s casino review board selected the Mulvane site for a casino resort in Sumner County. Though the two sites near Wellington were also strong proposals, the Mulvane location, which would be operated by Harrah’s Entertainment, was projected to produce more revenue, which was part of the selection criteria. It’s unfortunate that the location choice has been so divisive, pitting Mulvane against Wellington and Mulvane residents against one another.

Court green-lights casinos

casino1.jpgConcluding that “ownership and operation are flexible concepts,” the Kansas Supreme Court today gave the green light to the 2007 expanded gambling law and the four destination casinos planned around the state. That will be a huge relief to developers and locals in Sumner County and elsewhere who’ve been proceeding under the assumption that the law was constitutional. It also should be some comfort to state lawmakers looking for a cash source to offset declining state revenue. But even the court acknowledged the ambiguity of the setup: Under the state constitution, the state must control the “ownership and operation” of the casinos, yet they will be managed by private contractors.

Where more gambling could mean lower taxes

gamblingIn his State of the Government address, Wyandotte County Unified Government Mayor Joe Reardon was able to ponder what to do with all the casino and slot machine revenue that county sees ahead. He said he wants to “ensure that every dollar of gaming revenue we receive from the new casino” — an estimated $7 million to $10 million per year — “goes directly toward property tax reduction.” He’s also talking about funding a college scholarship program and improving neighborhood infrastructure. Of course, Wyandotte County’s current property tax rate is about 12.5 percent higher than the combined rates in Wichita and Sedgwick County. Reardon even spoke of making his county’s property tax rate competitive with that of Wichita and Sedgwick County.

Odds again favor Mulvane for casino

casinoThough Mulvane residents are deeply divided on the issue, it wasn’t too surprising that the Mulvane City Council endorsed a Harrah’s casino resort proposal this week, given the 1 percent share of revenue that is at stake. After the Sumner County Commission didn’t endorse either of the two casino proposals for the Mulvane exit of the Kansas Turnpike, instead picking two proposals at the Wellington exit, the Mulvane City Council annexed strips of land linking the town to where the casino would be located, about five miles away. The council’s endorsement of the project (and its possible future endorsement of the other Mulvane proposal) makes the Mulvane exit the most likely spot to land the casino — as the Kansas Lottery will want the proposal that can make the state the most money.

Wellington wins, but at what cost?

Sumner County commissioners seemingly put public support above potential revenue today in endorsing the two proposals to build a Wellington casino. That may be good politics. But the decision also snubs two of the biggest names in gaming, Harrah’s Entertainment and MGM Mirage, whose Mulvane proposals had the best chance of turning the complex into a destination resort for the region. You have to hand it to Wellington boosters for making their case. But this decision may cause state officials, who will make the final choice, to wonder: What were they thinking?
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Sumner County about to hit the jackpot

Slotmachine2So much for no one being willing to build a destination casino in Sumner County, as some gaming opponents claimed during the Sedgwick County debate. Four companies have filed proposals, including industry giants Harrah’s Entertainment and MGM Mirage.
Harrah’s wants to build a $500 million resort at the Mulvane exit of the Kansas Turnpike. It would include 275 hotel rooms, a championship golf course, and 30,000 square feet of convention space. And that’s just for the first phase of its development plan.
Harrah’s estimates that its project would annually provide Sumner County $5.5 million in revenue sharing and $12 million in property taxes, plus increased sales tax revenue.
Other proposals project similar revenues. So unless the Kansas Supreme Court rules that the state’s gaming law is unconstitutional, Sumner County will be hitting the jackpot.
Posted by Phillip Brownlee