Archive for Saturday, February 10, 2001

Debate on Keno game slows lottery measure

Wichita airfare amendment also delays bill

February 10, 2001


— Republican leaders would like the Senate to pass a "clean" bill extending the Kansas Lottery's life, but they are working to find compromises on amendments added by the House.

Two amendments have slowed the bill's progress. GOP leaders initially hoped for final Senate final action by the end of this week, but the bill remains in the Federal and State Affairs Committee.

One House amendment would cut the number of Keno games played daily and reduce sales. The other would direct $4 million in lottery revenue into a new program to reduce airfares into and from Kansas airports.

The bill itself would keep the lottery in operation for six years past the shutdown date of July 1, 2002. Leaders have said the Legislature must act in this session because the lottery would need a year to pay off prizes, make good on outstanding bills and wind down its operations if it were abolished.

The House added the airfare amendment nicknamed "Air Mayans" after sponsor Carlos Mayans, R-Wichita and the restrictions on lottery operations Monday, then passed the bill Tuesday.

Mayans met Friday with Senate Majority Leader Lana Oleen.

She, like Gov. Bill Graves, would prefer passage of a simple, half-page bill that merely sets a new abolition date for the lottery.

"The other issues, I think, stand on their merits, hopefully in a different forum," said Oleen, R-Manhattan, who sets the Senate's debate calendar.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, suggested Friday that GOP leaders are trying to pressure the Federal and State Affairs Committee into removing the amendments. The committee is to debate the bill Monday.

But Mayans' proposal and the Keno change are backed by Chairwoman Nancey Harrington, R-Goddard. She said she is encouraging members to support the airfare plan.

She and other south-central Kansas legislators think that reducing fares and increasing air travel would help the economy.

The proposed reduction in the frequency of Keno games to every five minutes from every four minutes is among amendments meant to make the lottery less addictive.

Lottery officials think sales would drop almost $10 million annually, costing the state $2.9 million in revenue.

Harrington, who generally opposes gambling, said the Keno change and other restrictions, such as a ban on credit card purchases of lottery tickets, make her more comfortable about renewing the lottery.

"You take away those two things, and it's a hit-or-miss proposition over here," said Rep. Tony Powell, R-Wichita.

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