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Archive for Saturday, March 15, 2003

Tribes say Sebelius should endorse their casino plan

March 15, 2003

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— Before Gov. Kathleen Sebelius announced her proposal to expand gambling, two Indian tribes told a top aide to the governor that their plan to open a casino near Kansas City would be more realistic and more profitable.

"We are reminding her we are the tribes of Kansas, we are financing this with Kansas money and the money would stay in Kansas," Fredia Perkins, vice chairwoman of the Sac and Fox Nation, said Friday.

The Kickapoo and the Sac and Fox tribes have proposed building a $175 million hotel and casino near Kansas Speedway in Wyandotte County. They have had discussions with Sebelius.

The tribes sent a letter dated March 7 to Matt All, the governor's chief counsel, disputing statements All made questioning the project's viability. The letter, from Paul Alexander, the Sac and Fox's general counsel, said the tribes plan to move quickly to put land in trust for their casino.

Six days later, on Thursday, All outlined Sebelius' proposal for expanded gambling to the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, which is reviewing various proposals.

Sebelius' plan calls for gambling promoters to pay the state $30 million in the next fiscal year if her plan passes.

A 1988 federal law allows tribes to operate the same type of gambling operated by the states in which their reservations are located. That law says a state must negotiate a compact with a tribe in good faith.

The legal issue would be whether Sebelius, on behalf of the state, would be negotiating in good faith with the tribes if she worked a compact with them while promoting another proposal in the Legislature.

Both Sebelius and the tribes agree there has no bad-faith bargaining yet, because no formal compact negotiations have begun.

But the tribes expect any negotiations to be resolved quickly, Alexander said in his letter to All.

Sebelius, at a news conference Friday, said the tribal proposals could still become a reality. However, she added, "I told the tribes months ago that I did support enhanced gaming at the racetrack facilities, which is consistent with where they've known my position to be."

Perkins said the tribes' plans were more realistic because both had casinos on their northeast Kansas reservations for at least six years.

"We have the skills; we have paid off the casinos; we are good business partners, and we are good neighbors," Perkins said.

But the Kickapoo and Sac and Fox want a guarantee that their project would be the last expansion of gambling in Kansas.

The state already operates a lottery and allows betting on dog and horse races, while the Kickapoo, Sac and Fox, Iowa and Prairie Band Potawatomi tribes have casinos in northeast Kansas.

Sebelius said she had made it clear she did not support the idea of "exclusivity" for the two tribes.

Perkins said the tribe had to work for Sebelius' support.

Sebelius has discussed expanded gambling at the tracks with representatives of Phil Ruffin, who owns dog tracks in Wichita and Frontenac, and of Bill Grace, owner of The Woodlands dog and horse track, All said. Both Ruffin and Grace contributed to Sebelius' campaign for governor.

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