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Archive for Sunday, January 9, 2005

Group unveils plans for casino in Kansas

Developers hope issue will resurface in Legislature

January 9, 2005

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— A group seeking a destination casino in southeast Kansas has developed plans for a 250-room hotel and 80,000-square-foot casino.

The proposal, which was unveiled during a news conference Friday in Galena, was sparked by a bill Gov. Kathleen Sebelius proposed a year ago that would have allowed up to five state-owned casinos.

Though the bill ultimately was rejected by lawmakers, the debate resulted in an unexpected finding. A study commissioned by the Kansas Lottery found that southeast Kansas, and more specifically Galena, would be the best bet for a complex in the state.

A group called Kansans for Economic Growth, which unveiled the casino plans, was formed as a result. Its members are hopeful the casino issue will come up again this year in the Legislature.

Ross Vogel, spokesman for Kansans for Economic Growth, and some lawmakers said a Kansas Supreme Court ruling could prompt the Legislature to look for new sources of revenue to increase funding for public education.

The court found that legislators aren't living up to their constitutional duty to provide a suitable education for more than 460,000 students. The court said more money is needed but left it to lawmakers to figure out how much to spend and how to spend it.

"With the conservative nature of the House, they are not going to want to increase taxes. We are going to have to have an alternative source," said Rep. Doug Gatewood, D-Columbus.

Rep.-elect Julie Menghini, D-Pittsburg, offered a similar assessment.

"I think the court's mandate will make it (expanded gaming) more palatable for some of the people who have been reluctant to support it in the past," she said.

Should the plan pass, many details would need to be completed.

For instance, Kansans for Economic Growth has not proposed a location for the casino, though Galena appears to be the most likely site. Vogel anticipated casino developers would foot the bill.

"First of all, we have already had calls from developers because of the merit of the study," Vogel said. "I think we would be in a real competitive advantage situation that we could get the best developer possible. Casino developers have far much more money than Kansans for Economic Growth, so they would probably be the ones that would fund that."

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