Archive for Saturday, March 31, 2007

Governor: Gambling bill should win court battle

March 31, 2007

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— With the promise of a lawsuit on the horizon, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said Friday she believes legislation allowing resort casinos and slot machines at horse and dog tracks can withstand a court challenge.

The bill, which the governor plans to sign, was sent to her by the Senate after a 12-hour filibuster that ended Thursday, shortly after midnight. She said it was "remarkably similar" to a proposal she backed in 2003, which never gained traction in the Legislature.

The Prairie Band Potawatomi, which operates a resort casino north of Topeka on its reservation, says it will challenge the law once it is enacted because it violates the Kansas Constitution. The Potawatomi, who operate one of four tribal casinos in northeast Kansas, aren't required to pay any revenues to the state.

The Kansas Constitution allows a "state-owned and operated" lottery, and the Kansas Supreme Court has declared that "lottery" is defined broadly enough to cover other gambling, including slot machines, card games and table games.

Opponents argue the constitution requires the state not only to own the casinos and slots at tracks but to manage them directly, rather than delegating management to a private company, as the legislation envisions.

The American Gaming Association says 11 other states have commercial casinos but none have state-run resort casinos.

Sebelius said she assumes there will be a legal challenge but believes the legislation will survive

"We have an attorney general's opinion that indicates that the framework is constitutional," she said. "I am confident from what I have seen, the legal precedent, the legal opinions of the past, that this is a constitutional framework."

The governor didn't say whether she thought a legal challenge would delay casinos from opening, only that the she hopes the issue is resolved quickly.

The casinos would be in the Dodge City area, the Kansas City area, southeast and south-central Kansas. The state would receive 22 percent of their revenues.

Dog and horse tracks in Kansas City, Frontenac and Wichita would divide 2,200 slots, with an additional 600 slots once the state signed contracts with casino managers.

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