Archive for Thursday, July 22, 2004

Casino compact could be reached by Labor Day

July 22, 2004

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— Two American Indian tribes and the governor's office could agree by the end of the summer on a compact to allow the tribes to build a $210 million hotel and casino complex in Wyandotte County, officials say.

The Kickapoo and the Sac and Fox tribes have been negotiating with Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' office since February. The tribes announced last week that they had completed the purchase of 80 acres of land near Kansas Speedway.

The two tribes already operate separate casinos in northeast Kansas, and representatives remained optimistic about a new deal. Also optimistic was Matt All, Sebelius' chief counsel.

"The negotiations are going along as we expected," Fredia Perkins, Sac and Fox vice chairwoman, said Wednesday. "We're proceeding normally."

Emily Conklin, the Kickapoo vice chairwoman, said negotiations could be completed within a month.

"We think things will be concluded in a very short amount of time," she said. "Things are going well."

All said he expected another intensive round of talks next week, adding, "I think we're all confident we'll get it done."

"The goal is to get it done, basically, by the end of the summer," he said, naming Labor Day as a possible date.

The Kickapoo and the Sac and Fox plan to use 40 of the 80 acres they bought for the casino complex, reserving the rest for other development. The complex would include a 250-room hotel and an 80,000-square-foot-casino.

Under the Kansas Constitution, only the state or Indian tribes can operate casino gambling. The constitution also permits a state-run lottery and betting on dog and horse racing.

Over the past decade, legislators have repeatedly rejected expansion of state-run gambling, even as they approved compacts allowing casinos at the four Indian reservations in northeast Kansas.

This year, legislators rejected a separate proposal from Sebelius to allow up to five large state-owned casinos in Kansas as well as slot machines at dog and horse tracks and in halls operated by fraternal and veterans' groups.

The existing tribal-state compacts do not give the state a share of casino profits. The Kickapoo and the Sac and Fox are willing to give the state a percentage of their revenues -- between $40 million and $60 million a year -- from the Kansas City, Kan., venture.

All said one important issue remaining was the role of the state and the tribes in regulating casino operations.

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