Kansas officials need to think long and hard before they give the go-ahead for gambling casinos, such as one now being proposed by the Kickapoo Indians.
Various Native American groups in the state have indicated they would like to set up gambling in Indian territory, which legalists say is within existing regulations. Nearby Kansas City was at one time considering trying to set up an operation in the Woodlands race track area along I-435. The idea was that with horse and dog racing available, casino gambling would flourish and the region would become a mecca for wagerers. There was talk of a major hotel and other facilities to take care of such visitors.
Granted, the original concept sounded good, because of the location in a population center and the promises of promoters about how much money could be produced for such important activities as education.
But we have to keep in mind that pari-mutuel operations in the state have not been doing all that well, and that the Woodlands for all its success in the dog racing field has not been able to break even on the horse races.
All sorts of new gambling outlets have been popping up in the Midwest, including lotteries and riverboat gaming. There is still good reason to question how profitable they are likely to be, considering the saturation of the regional market and the current tendency toward overkill for facilities. The longterm Ak-Sar-Ben horse track at Omaha has been in serious trouble because of gambling saturation and may go broke, good as it's been in the past when there was far less competition for the gaming dollar.
Kansas City, Kan., seems to have abandoned its notions of casino operations near the Woodlands because of imposing financial problems. Bear in mind this may have been the best spot in the state for such a venture proximity to a population center, good roads, an airport nearby, for example. In gambling as in real estate, experts will tell you that three of the most important aspects are ``location, location and location.''
With the Kansas City region out of the market right now, can there be enough traffic to Indian lands throughout the state to make casino operations break even, let alone make a profit? It would seem gambling proponents and state officials need to survey the situation much more carefully than they seem to have done before leaping into a venture which at best might be an embarrassment and at worst a terrible financial disaster.