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Archive for Tuesday, February 27, 2001

Casino looks for fit in Tonganoxie

February 27, 2001

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— Delaware Indian Tribe officials searching for a location to build a gambling complex found the Tonganoxie City Council to be a receptive audience Monday night.

About 70 people overflowed the council's chambers to hear Tribal Chairman Dee Ketchum outline the Oklahoma tribe's efforts, now concentrated in Leavenworth County.

"It's got to be a good fit for the Delawares and it's got to be a good fit for the particular area," Ketchum said.

Last year the Delawares announced plans to purchase land and build a casino northeast of Lawrence in Douglas County. They were soundly opposed by local residents.

Earlier this year, the tribe pulled its Lawrence proposal and began looking in Leavenworth County. Ketchum did not identify specific sites, but said locations near Tonganoxie and Basehor are being studied.

A gaming complex would include a casino, motel or hotel, gift shop, smoke shop and possibly a museum, Ketchum said.

"We're looking at this strictly as an economic development issue as well," Tonganoxie Mayor John Franiuk said. "We're looking from our side for a major commitment for financial benefit."

That financial benefit would be worked out, Ketchum said. Although the casino complex would not be as big as one proposed for Lawrence, annual revenue to the tribe would be about $30 million, he said. The tribe would work with Leavenworth County commissioners and cities to distribute a share of that revenue, he said.

The Delawares once owned more than 2 million acres of land in Kansas, including in the Leavenworth area, Ketchum said. Federal trust acquisition laws allow the tribe to purchase land and place it in a trust. A casino then could be built upon permission from the U.S. Interior Department, the Kansas Legislature and governor, and local government officials.

"That's not going to be easy, and I'm not so naive to think that it will be," Ketchum said.

The Delaware representatives were pleased with the reception it received from Tonganoxie and Leavenworth County commissioners, Ketchum said. He expressed disappointment with the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce for its lack of contact with the Delawares when the Douglas County plan was pursued.

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