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Archive for Monday, December 3, 2007

Court to decide whether gambling law is constitutional

December 3, 2007

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— Whether there will be resort casinos in Kansas hinges on who the courts say really owns and operates the gambling facilities.

Does calling the casinos state owned and operated make it so? Attorney General Paul Morrison says no, while the Kansas Lottery says yes.

But the only opinion that matters is what the courts eventually decide. The first step toward getting that answer starts Tuesday in Shawnee County District Court.

That's when Judge Charles Andrews hears arguments on whether the expanded gambling law enacted by the Legislature this year is constitutional. However he rules, the final answer most likely will come from Kansas Supreme Court, which is what Morrison has wanted all along.

Legislators authorized four casinos and slot machines at dog and horse tracks. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who supports expanded gambling, asked Morrison to get a ruling from the state's highest court. She believed the law is constitutional but felt developers would be reluctant to invest unless the law was upheld.

Eleven states have nontribal resort casinos, but Kansas is the only one to own and operate casinos, according to the American Gaming Association.

The lawmakers specified that casinos are owned and operated by the state with developers hired by the state to carry out the day-to-day management of the facility. The owner and operator question is important because of what the state constitution says and what the Supreme Court has ruled.

In 1986, voters rewrote the constitution to say the Legislature may provide for a state-owned and operated lottery, which it did the following year.

Then, in 1994, the Supreme Court ruled the term "lottery" was broad enough to cover slot machines and other casino games.

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