Topeka — The Kansas Legislature on Wednesday bogged down over expanded gambling as supporters sought to advance the issue, while opponents tried to derail it.
A tag team of gambling supporters conducted a delaying filibuster in the Senate into the night to prevent a parliamentary move intended to kill the bill.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, an opponent of expanded gambling, refused to bring the House to order in an attempt to wait out the senators. Lawmakers said they expected the impasse to continue through today.
At one point, as part of a delay strategy, Sen. David Wysong, R-Mission Hills, read the rules of different gambling games.
"Let's talk about craps," Wysong said. Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, read lengthy gambling feasibility reports that have been done by the state over the past few years.
House bill before the Senate
On Monday, the House approved legislation that would allow four major casinos in Kansas and place slot machines at the state's pari-mutuel horse and dog tracks.
On Wednesday, the battle moved to the Senate, unleashing several parliamentary maneuvers.
The Senate voted 22-18 to put the gambling bill in a House-Senate conference committee for further work, which would give supporters of the bill time to gather more support. Francisco voted to put the bill in conference committee, while Sen. Roger Pine, R-Lawrence, voted against the move.
But then Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, sought to have senators vote up or down on the House plan before the House had a chance to appoint its members of the conference committee.
Under the Legislature's rules, if the plan failed at that point - which it was certain to do - then the bill would have been lost for the session.
"I am trying to kill this bill," Barnett said.
But supporters of the bill started what turned into hours of debate, waiting for the House to pick its conference committee.
Neufeld, however, refused to budge.
At one point, Neufeld told the House he hadn't seen the message from the Senate that it had put the gambling legislation into a conference committee.
Democrats immediately found the message, made copies and passed them out to all members.
At times, emotions ran high during debate of the bill.
As Barnett pushed for a vote, he said Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, had threatened him. Hensley's staff members said Hensley simply told Barnett that he would remember Barnett's insistence to make the parliamentary move instead of taking a break.
The arguments over gambling ran along familiar lines.
Opponents said expansion of casino gambling in Kansas would hurt families through problem gambling, businesses by diverting entertainment dollars, and that the state wasn't getting a good deal in the bill.
"We will see good jobs eliminated. We will see families destroyed, and we will see communities suffer for the enrichment of a few," said Sen. Phil Journey, R-Haysville.
But supporters of gambling said it would provide revenue to take care of critical needs of the state, including repairs and maintenance of university buildings.
"This bill would provide the revenues to address the problems that our universities have with deferred maintenance," Hensley said.
Casinos and slots
The bill would permit hotel-and-casino complexes in Wyandotte County, Ford County, either Sedgwick or Sumner county and either Cherokee or Crawford county.
It also would permit a total of 2,200 slot machines at the Woodlands in Kansas City, Kan., Wichita Greyhound Park and the now-closed Camptown Greyhound Park in Frontenac. An additional 600 machines would be permitted once the state had contracts with developers to operate the casinos.
The state would receive 22 percent of the casinos' revenues and 40 percent of the slot machines' revenues.
A portion of gambling revenue sent back to the state would go to local units of government for property tax relief, infrastructure improvement - which could include repairs at universities - and debt reduction.
Gambling proponents said the state eventually could receive $200 million per year.