Topeka — American Indian tribes that operate casinos in Kansas are divided about the state's new gambling legislation that would allow four casinos and slot machines at horse and dog tracks.
The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, which owns the largest casino in Kansas - Harrah's Prairie Band Casino in Mayetta - has announced that it will file a lawsuit seeking to block the legislation.
But the Kickapoo and Sac and Fox tribes support the measure, while the Iowa have not publicly weighed in.
"We have an interesting phenomena this year," said Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who said she intends to sign the bill into law.
"The Kickapoo and Sac and Fox Kansas tribes very much support the bill that is coming to my desk. The Potawatomi do not, and the Iowa have been silent," she said.
The four tribes own a monopoly on casino gambling in Kansas through compacts developed in the 1990s. All the casinos are in rural areas of northeastern Kansas and have fueled development in their counties, but the state has received no direct funding from the games.
With passage last month of the gambling bill, the state has proposed a major change in the gambling landscape.
The measure calls for four major hotel-casino operations, in Wyandotte County, Ford County, south-central Kansas and southeastern Kansas. It also would allow 2,800 slots at The Woodlands horse and dog track in Kansas City, Kan., Wichita Greyhound Park, and Camptown Greyhound Park in Frontenac. The operations would first have to be approved by voters in those counties.
But the bill's passage shifts the fight from the Statehouse to the courthouse.
Potawatomi Tribal Chairwoman Tracy Stanhoff said the measure violates the Kansas Constitution, which says only the state can operate a lottery. Under the legislation, casinos are defined as an expansion of the state lottery and will be owned by the state, although operated by private companies.
"What they're looking at doing is having government gaming but not running the casinos or having much input on them, so it's not a fair and equal playing field," Stanhoff said.
She said the operation of major casinos will severely affect her tribe, which has used gambling dollars to raise its members out of poverty and provide health care.
But the Kickapoo, which own the Golden Eagle Casino in Horton, and Sac and Fox, which own a casino in Powhattan, support the bill. These two tribes will bid to build the Wyandotte County destination casino. The tribes jointly own 80 acres near the Kansas Speedway and Village West retail and entertainment district in Kansas City, Kan.
Fredia Perkins, tribal chairwoman of the Sac and Fox, said the new legislation "gets it right."
"People want destination casinos. They don't want something that you just pass through," Perkins said. "This is not something just for the tribes, but for the whole state."
In 2004, Sebelius' office negotiated a compact with the Kickapoo and Sac and Fox tribes that would have allowed the tribes to open a $210 million hotel and casino complex near the Kansas Speedway. But the proposal was not approved by the Legislature.
And the Iowa, which own Casino White Cloud in Brown County, have in the past few years proposed building a $270 million resort casino near downtown Wichita, which could be the site of a destination casino under the bill. Representatives of the Iowa did not return telephone calls for comment.
Under the new legislation, casino developers would have to build complexes with a value of at least $225 million, with the exception of the Ford County casino, which would have to be at $50 million.