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Archive for Saturday, April 23, 2005

House Speaker says odds improving for gambling pact

April 23, 2005

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— House Speaker Doug Mays on Friday gave some gambling proponents hope to stay in the game.

Mays, R-Topeka, said when the Legislature reconvened Wednesday, there might be enough votes in the House to approve a limited casino compact with two Indian tribes.

"The fact that he is talking about it is progress," said Dan Watkins, a Lawrence attorney who has been involved in a proposed compact involving the state and the Sac and Fox and Kickapoo nations.

Under the compact, the tribes would build and operate a resort hotel and casino near Kansas Speedway in Wyandotte County. The compact also would allow slots at three pari-mutuel horse and dog tracks.

Supporters say the revenue-sharing proposal could provide $125 million per year to state coffers.

Mays, the leader of the House, generally has been opposed or indifferent to attempts to expand gambling.

But during a Friday news conference he said some legislators opposed to expanded gambling in general could vote for a revised compact because it could lock down further expansion while making some revenue from Kansas gamblers who are now going to Missouri to play.

House approval could spur momentum in the Senate where more members have expressed interest in raising revenue in future years for schools and social services.

But proposals to expand gambling beyond Wyandotte County and perhaps add a casino in a southeast Kansas county lose votes in the House, Mays said.

"The further west you go, the more votes you lose," he said. "By the time you get to Wichita, the votes are gone."

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