Topeka — Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is downplaying the possibility of a casino and hotel-resort near the Kansas Speedway, instead throwing her support behind a proposal to allow slot machines at existing horse and dog racetracks.
"It is several steps away from a real deal," Sebelius said recently of a proposal by the Kickapoo tribe and Sac and Fox nation to build a $175 million hotel and resort with an 80,000-square-foot casino near the NASCAR racetrack.
Under the proposal, the two tribes would negotiate a compact with the state to share some of the casino profits with Kansas.
But Sebelius said she didn't like the part of the proposal that would prevent the state from approving expansion of gaming elsewhere.
And she said the state could not negotiate with the tribes until they get the U.S. Department of Interior to put land in trust on which to build the facility.
"The tribes do not have land in trust to negotiate a compact ... but frankly the tribal proposal that they be the exclusive enterprise for gaming in the Kansas City-area or perhaps statewide has never been a premise that I have been comfortable with," Sebelius said.
Supporters of the tribal casino-resort say market studies show that in order to make the deal work the state needs to prevent expanded gaming elsewhere in Kansas.
Sebelius has said she wants the Legislature to pass a bill that would allow slots at the five existing parimutuel tracks. Under the proposal, the track owners would have to produce $30 million upfront.
That $30 million is a key part of Sebelius' plan to balance the state budget. But the measure hasn't gained much traction only one week before the Legislature adjourns for three weeks. Lawmakers will return for a scheduled four-day wrap-up session.
Nevertheless, Sebelius said she didn't have a "fallback" position if lawmakers reject her proposal. "I'm not going to compromise with myself," she said.