Expanded gambling introduced amid controversy

? A Senate committee today introduced legislation that would set up state-owned casinos, which would produce more than $500 million in state revenue over the next four years.

But the proposal immediately ran into problems.

Several legislators walked out of the Federal and State Affairs, complaining that a scheduled Thursday hearing on the measure didn’t give interests enough time to prepare.

“I don’t appreciate the abuse of the process,” Sen. Kay O’Connor, R-Olathe, said.

But Chairman Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, said the legislation was similar to proposals that have been debated for the past three years. “I don’t think it’s a blindslide,” he said.

But Sens. O’Connor, Karin Brownlee, R-Olathe, and Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, left the meeting.

Under the measure, casinos could be built in the Kansas City. Kan.-area and southeast Kansas. The measure would also allow up to 7,000 slot machines divided among pari-mutuel tracks in Kansas City, Frontenac, Wichita and possibly Dodge City.

Matt All, general counsel for Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, said the measure could produce $520 million for state coffers over the next four years, in addition to pumping in $173 million in property tax relief.

Some lawmakers are eyeing expansion of gambling opportunities as a way to pay for court-ordered school finance increases.