Archive for Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cherokee County sets casino vote

Resort site proposal on June ballot

April 25, 2007

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— Cherokee County voters will decide in June whether to allow a state-owned casino and hotel complex to be built in the county.

The Cherokee County Commission on Monday approved a resolution placing the referendum on the June 5 ballot.

A law passed this legislative session allows resort casinos in Ford County, Wyandotte County, Sedgwick or Sumner counties, and Crawford or Cherokee counties. It also allows up to 2,200 slot machines total at dog and horse tracks in Kansas City, Wichita and Frontenac. Voters in counties first must approve the gambling operations.

Penn National Gaming, teamed with Kansans for Economic Growth, has said it wants to build a casino and hotel in an area about equal distance from Baxter Springs and Galena.

The state law requires the casino developer to invest a minimum of $225 million. Early plans are for a 250-room hotel and could include restaurants, entertainment venues and shops.

Richard Klemp, vice president for government relations for Penn National, said he is pleased the election date has been set.

"We feel like there is a strong base of support in Cherokee County, with many of the civic and elected leaders supporting this effort," Klemp said. "We're pleased we have a date to focus on."

The county where the casino is located would receive 2 percent of its revenue. State Rep. Doug Gatewood, D-Columbus, has said that would mean an estimated $3.5 million annually for Cherokee County.

If the complex is built in Cherokee County, Crawford County would receive 1 percent of the casino revenue.

Klemp has said the casino complex would bring about 1,500 direct and indirect jobs to the area, with a vast majority of those Penn National employees.

The Kansas Lottery Commission must approve contracts for operating the casinos. The commission will decide by May 19 the procedure for submitting proposals and set a deadline for receiving them. The Lottery Commission must approve a contract within 90 days of the deadline it sets.

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