Archive for Thursday, March 31, 2005

Panel endorses gambling bill

March 31, 2005

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— A bill allowing casinos in five areas and slot machines at dog and horse tracks won the endorsement of a Senate committee Wednesday, with supporters pitching it as a way to raise new dollars for education.

The bill would set aside the state's revenues from the new gambling for public schools. Supporters estimated the bill would raise $150 million during the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The Ways and Means Committee's voice vote sent the bill to the Senate for debate. It was the first significant legislative action on gambling this year.

Republican leaders had said the measure would stay in committee unless supporters could demonstrate it would pass the Senate, but on Wednesday, they weren't sure their chamber would even debate the measure this year.

Local officials, prospective developers and racing groups have been pushing for an expansion of legal gambling for more than a decade, but their efforts have failed. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius supports an expansion, and proponents had hoped pressure to find additional money for schools would help their efforts.

But some education officials are wary of the Senate committee's bill, quickly nicknamed "Slots for Tots." Mark Tallman, a lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards, said education officials worry that if gambling revenues are dedicated to schools, legislators will stop considering education's needs, figuring they've addressed them.

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