Archive for Monday, August 14, 2000

Opponents bet they can defeat casino

Plans for gambling arena in Douglas County upset some residents

August 14, 2000

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Casino opponents met Sunday to continue collecting signatures on petitions intended to block a tribe of Delaware American Indians from opening a casino north of Lawrence.

Co-chairman Kelvin Heck of the Concerned Citizens for a Casino Free Greater Douglas County said the group opposes any gambling establishments in the county, regardless of the operator.

"It's just so incredibly negative, we don't want any part of it," Heck said.

His group, which formed a few weeks ago, emerged when Delaware American Indian tribe members from Oklahoma announced their intention to purchase about 80 acres of land east of the Lawrence Municipal Airport.

Since then, Douglas County residents and neighbors have collected about 750 signatures of a planned 10,000. Heck said at the meeting the completed petitions will be given to Gov. Bill Graves.

"In 1988, the year they passed the Indian Regulation Gaming Act, there were 70 casinos in 16 states. In 1998, there were 260 casinos in 31 states," he said. "We will accumulate these petitions and they will go to Gov. Graves. That's where I see it having the most effect."

Heck's co-chair, Bob Walters, said in responding to the casino plans, he and other group members have had to study up on the effects of casinos on rural communities.

"We are learning and trying to absorb as much as we can," Walters said. "We're trying to understand, learn and apply. This is going to take us awhile."

Nearly 400 petition forms have been circulated around Douglas County and neighboring counties. Anyone interested in signing one can find a copy at Stephens Real Estate, 2701 W. Sixth, or KLWN AM, 3125 W. Sixth.

Even if the Delaware tribe is able to purchase the land, it must get clearance to build a casino from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Graves and the Kansas Legislature.

Walters said he is confident that the grassroots effort can halt the planned development.

"They tried to put a casino in Wichita and were not successful. It can be done," he said.

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