The Star – Casino bill goes to Senate – Drawing 21 or more — votes — is the game plan for supporters.

Kansas City Star; March 27, 2007
Casino bill goes to Senate – Drawing 21 or more — votes — is the game plan for supporters.

GAMBLING IN KANSAS – House gives final approval to measure

TOPEKA – After narrow approval in the House, a bill authorizing a casino in Wyandotte County moved to the Senate on Monday, where odds of passage are anyone’s guess.

Now begins the familiar Senate game of 21 — the number of votes in the Senate necessary to pass the gambling proposal, in recent years an insurmountable number. Last year a similar gambling proposal died on the Senate floor despite intense lobbying from supporters.

“It’s very close,” said Sen. Jim Barone, a Frontenac Democrat. “I think we ve got a shot.”

The House gave final approval to the gambling plan Monday morning with a vote of 64-58. No Senate vote has been set.

The proposal would allow casinos in Wyandotte County, near Wichita and Dodge City, and in southeast Kansas. It would also allow 2,200 slot machines divided among dog and horse tracks, including The Woodlands in Wyandotte County.

Unified Government Mayor Joe Reardon was excited about the possibilities gambling would provide for the Village West tourism district, where leaders have long lobbied for a high-quality destination casino.

“We think the bill has great merit,” Reardon said. “Obviously the benefits for Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas. would be significant. But we think that the benefits for the state would be significant as well.”

Reardon said he was happy to see the bill make accommodations for The Woodlands. The business remains a “community asset” and fits well into the overall plan for western Wyandotte County, he said.

While state-owned, the gambling operations would be run by private groups. Local and state government would see a share of the revenue. Money would be set aside for gambling addiction programs.

The state’s revenue share — estimated to be as much as $200 million per year — would go into a fund dedicated to long-term financial needs such as debt reduction, infrastructure, local property tax relief and the state employee retirement fund.

With the legislative session winding down, a vote in the Senate will have to come soon.

The House added the gambling measure into a bill renewing the state lottery. The Senate must take care with the bill or risk defeating the entire lottery, which generates millions for the state budget.

Senate leaders, who generally support the plan, are now formulating their strategy. A vote isn’t likely until leaders think they ve nailed down the 21st vote.

“It’s still fluid. If we rounded up more votes, it could be quite quick,” said Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton Republican. “If not, well, we ll see.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius expressed her support for the plan. She termed it a “responsible expansion” that is likely to please most Kansans.

“Kansans long ago expressed their support for gaming,” she said in a statement. “First, in a 1986 statewide vote, then through local votes for expanded gaming, and through their patronage of out-of-state and tribal casinos.”

In the House, opponents were still smarting from Saturday’s debate. Rep. Anthony Brown, a Eudora Republican who made a tearful plea to oppose gambling Saturday, referred to gambling supporters as “people I once referred to as friends.”

Opponents objected on moral grounds, saying the state shouldn’t try to exploit a potentially addictive behavior that takes money from Kansas gamblers and gives it to out-of-state gambling companies.

“We have failed,” said Rep. Kasha Kelley, an Arkansas City Republican. “(The proposal) allows us to truly gamble with the future of Kansas and it is an abomination.”

Gambling vote

Here’s how the Kansas House members from Johnson, Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties voted on Monday’s expanded gambling bill:

Republicans voting yes: Pat Colloton, Leawood; Tim Owens, Sheryl Spalding and Kevin Yoder, all of Overland Park; Kay Wolf, Prairie Village; Terrie Huntington, Mission Hills; Stephanie Sharp and Ron Worley, both of Lenexa; and Kenny Wilk, Lansing.

Republicans voting no: Anthony Brown, Eudora; Jeff Colyer, Ben Hodge, Ronnie Metsker, all of Overland Park; Owen Donohoe and Judy Morrison, both of Shawnee; Mike Kiegerl, Lance Kinzer, Rob Olson and Arlen Siegfreid, all of Olathe; and Ray Merrick, Stilwell.

Democrats voting yes: Tom Burroughs, Stan Frownfelter, Broderick Henderson, Margaret Long, Mike Peterson, Louis Ruiz, and Valdenia Winn, all of Kansas City, Kan.; Candy Ruff, Leavenworth; Cindy Neighbor, Shawnee; Gene Rardin and Sue Storm, both of Overland Park.

Not voting: Marti Crow, a Leavenworth Democrat.

Key details of plan

Where a casino could go: Wyandotte County, Sedgwick or Sumner counties, Crawford or Cherokee counties, and Ford County.

Where slot parlors could go: 2,200 machines divided among The Woodlands in Wyandotte County, Wichita Greyhound Park and Camptown in Frontenac.

Approval of voters in host counties required.

Revenue breakdown:

22 percent of casino revenue goes to state.
$25 million operator fee goes to state.
40 percent of slot revenue goes to state.
Tracks pay $2,500 fee per slot machine.
25 percent goes to facility owner as management fee.
7 percent each goes to greyhound racing and horse racing.
3 percent of revenue from casino and slots goes to local units of government.
2 percent goes to problem gambling and addiction fund.
1 percent goes to Horse Benefit Fair Fund.

Other

Casinos must cost $225 million minimum.

State’s use of its share limited to debt reduction, infrastructure improvements and property tax relief.

A 25-year ban on new expansion of casinos or new slot parlors.

The Star’s Dawn Bormann contributed to this report. To reach David Klepper, call 1-(785) 354-1388 or send e-mail to dklepper@kcstar.com. Source: House bipartisan coalition plan

Author: DAVID KLEPPER
Section: News
Page: B1

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