Topeka Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' gaming task force said Friday that Kansas should expand gambling opportunities, starting with a destination casino in Wyandotte County.
"Time is important," said Tom Wright, chairman of the Governor's Committee on Gaming. "Outside competition will take over if the state does nothing."
The task force, which conducted public hearings across the state, discussed its draft recommendations and will vote on a final report next week.
Kansas has a state lottery, pari-mutuel wagering and Indian tribal casinos. Numerous legislative attempts to pass state-run casino gambling have failed.
The task force said expanded gambling would produce jobs, increase tourism and pump additional revenue into dried-up state coffers. The group, however, made no estimate on how much revenue the state would gain from various proposals.
The task force recommended that the state expand gambling with a casino of more than 2,000 slot machines near the Kansas Speedway.
In addition, the task force said that smaller slot venues could be attached to pari-mutuel horse tracks and dog tracks in Wyandotte County, Wichita and Frontenac. The state should consider additional casinos only under limited circumstances, it said.
All casino-type expansions first would have to be approved by voters in those localities, the task force said.
The group also said that video lottery terminals should be allowed at fraternal and veterans organizations.
The task force did not determine whether the state should own and operate the casinos, or negotiate a deal with an Indian tribe for a mega-casino. Either path had benefits and problems, members said.
Negotiations with tribal interests were complicated by federal laws, and no other state in the country operates its own casino, the task force said.
Opponents dismissed the findings, saying that expanded gambling would increase social problems and drain revenue from other businesses.
"This is what you'd expect from a committee of gambling supporters," said Glenn Thompson, a Wichita resident and one of the state's leading anti-gambling advocates. "The Legislature will put it (the final report) on a shelf and let it collect dust."
In announcing the task force in August, Sebelius said its members did not have special interest ties to the gaming industry, but community, business, and leadership experiences that "will help to provide a comprehensive look at what proposals should be considered in the future."
|Members of the Governor's Committee on Gaming, appointed in August by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, are:Tom Wright, Topeka, chairman; Clyde Graeber, Leavenworth, vice chairman; Jeanne Gates, Overland Park; Ed Gillette, Kansas City, Kan.; Bonita Gooch, Wichita; Jim Hadel, Kansas City, Kan.; Sherman Jones, Kansas City, Kan.; Al Kamus, Wichita; Jeff Levin, Manhattan; Mark Love, Wichita; A.J. Menghini, Frontenac; Gene Ralston, Topeka; Glenn Staab, Hays; Andy Stanton, Dodge City; and Ben Vidricksen, Salina.|